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Full text of "Early English poems"

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EARLY 

ENGLISH POEMS 



SELECTED AND IN PART TRANSLATED 

BY 

HENRY S. PANCOAST 

AUTHOR OF "AN INTRODUCTION TO ENGLISH LITERATURE," "AN INTRODUCTION 
TO AMERICAN LITERATURE," ETC. 

AND 

JOHN DUNCAN SPAETH 

PRECEPTOR IN PRINCETON UNIVERSITY 




NEW YORK 

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 

1910 



7Rl^ o2> 



T^.o 



Copyright, 1910, 

By 

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 



CI.A27K.U4 



NOTE 

The translations from the Anglo-Saxon 
were made by Mr. Spaeth ; those from 
the later verse by Mr. Pancoast. 



CONTENTS 



PART FIRST 
FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE NORMAN CONQUEST 

I. Charms 

The Ploughman's Charm ...... 1 

Charm for a Sudden Stitch ...... 2 



II. Old English Epic 

The Life of the Gleeman (from Widsith) . 

The Myth of the Sheaf-Child (from Beowulf) . 

The Sea Voyage (from the same) 

The Fight with Grendel (from the same) . 

The Fight with Grendel's Mother (from the same) 

Beowulf's Last Fight and Death (from the same) 

III. Biblical Epic 



3 
5 
7 
9 
13 
21 



The Fall of Man (from Younger Genesis) . . .30 

The Drowning of the Egyptians (from Exodus) . . .43 

IV. Christian Lyric 

C.edmon: Northumbrian Hymn . . . . .45 

Cynewulf: Hymn of Praise (from The Crist) . . .46 

The Voyage of Life (from the same) . . .47 



VI CONTENTS 

Doomsday (from the same) . . . . .47 

The Vision of the Cross . . . . .50 

The Phoenix 54 

V. Secular Lyric and Elegy 

The Wanderer 65 

The Sea-Farer ........ 68 

The Husband's Message ...... 71 

VI. Riddles and Gnomic Verse 

The Book- Worm 72 

Gnats 73 

The Shield 73 

Barnacle on the Hull of a Sailing- Vessel . . . .73 

Honey-Mead 74 

The Anchor 74 

The Plough 75 

Gnomic Verses ........ 75 

The Fates of Men 79 

VII. Historic War-Poems 

The Battle of Brunnanburg (from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) 81 

The Battle of Maldon 84 



PART SECOND 
FROM THE NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

I. History and Romance 

Layamon: How Layamon Wrote His Book (from the Brut) 95 
Robert of Gloucester: In Praise of England (from 

Riming Chronicle) ...... 96 

Norman and English (from the same) . . .97 



CONTENTS Vll 

Lawrence Minot: The Battle of Halidon Hill . . 98 
Prayer for King Edward (from How Edward the 

King came to Brabant) ..... 101 

Song of the Scottish Maidens after the Battle of 

Bannockburn ....... 101 

John Barbour: Freedom (from The Bruce) . . . 102 

Sir Orpheo ......... 103 

The Seasons (from Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight) . 117 

Sir Gawayne's Journey (from the same) .... 119 

II. Moral and Religious Verse 

Poema Morale 121 

Thomas of Hales: A Love Letter ..... 122 
The Debate of the Body and the Soul . . . .126 

The Pearl 135 

William Langland: Piers the Ploughman (selections) . 145 

The Vision (from Passus 7) 148 

The Owl and the Nightingale 151 

Robert Manning of Brunne: In Praise of Woman (from 

Handlyng Synne) ....... 155 

Orm: Ormulum ........ 155 

Cursor Mundi ........ 156 

Richard Rolle: The Prick of Conscience . . . 160 

III. Songs and Ballads 

Canute's Song ........ 161 

Cuckoo Song ......... 161 

Spring Song ......... 162 

Song .......... 163 

Song 163 

Winter Song ......... 164 

Alysoun ......... 164 

Blow, Northern Wind ....... 166 

When the Nightingale Sings ...... 168 

Ubi Sunt qui Ante Nos Fuerunt? ..... 169 

Earth 170 

Life 172 

Ave Maria ......... 172 

Lullaby 173 



Vlll CONTENTS 

Lullaby 173 

Death 176 



PART THIRD 



FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 



Geoffrey Chaucer: The Dethe of Blaunche the Duchesse 

(selections) ....... 179 

The Parlement of Foules (selection) . . . 183 
The Legend of Good Women (selections from the 

Prologue 184 

The Canterbury Tales (selection from the Prologue) 192 

The Merry Words of the Host to Chaucer . . 211 

The Pardoners Tale 212 

The Compleynt of Chaucer to His Purse . . 219 
The Ballad of Good Counsel . . . .220 



EARLY ENGLISH POEMS 



PART FIRST 

FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE NORMAN 
CONQUEST 

I. CHARMS 

THE PLOUGHMAN'S CHARM 

Here is the remedy how thou mayest cure thy land if it 
refuses to bear, or if aught untoward hath befallen it by way 
of witchcraft or sorcery. Strew seed on the body of the plough 
and repeat these words: — 

Erce, Erce, Erce, Mother of Earth, (49) 

May the Almighty, Lord Everlasting, 

Grant thee fields, green and fertile, 

Grant thee fields, fruitful and growing, 

Hosts of Spear-shafts, shining harvests, 5 

Harvest of Barley the broad, 

Harvest of Wheat the white, 
All the heaping harvests of earth! 
May the Almighty Lord Everlasting, 
And his holy saints in heaven above, 10 

From fiend and foe defend this land, 
Keep it from blight and coming of harm, 
From spell of witches wickedly spread! 
Now I pray the Almighty who made this world, 



2 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

That malice of man, or mouth of woman 15 

Never may weaken the words I have spoken 

Start the plough, and when the first furrow is turned, say : — 

Hail to thee Earth, Mother of men! (67) 

Grow and be great in God's embrace, 
Filled with fruit for the food of men! 

Knead a loaf of bread with milk and holy water, lay 
it under the first furrow and say: — 

Field be full of food for men 20 

Blossom bright for blessed thou art 
In the name of the Holy who made the Heavens 
Created the earth whereon we live. 
God who gavest this ground 

Grant us growth and increase 25 

Let each seed that is sown, sprout and be useful. 



CHARM FOR A SUDDEN STITCH 

Take feverfew, and plantain, and the red nettle that grows 
into the house. Boil in butter. Say:— 

Loud was their cry as they came o'er the hill; 
Fierce was their rage as they rode o'er the land. 
Take heed and be healed of the hurt they have done thee. 

Out little spear if in there thou be! 
Under linden shelter I lifted my shield 5 

When the mighty women mustered their force, 
And sent their spear-points spinning toward me 
I'll give them back the bolt they sent me, 
A flying arrow full in the face. 

Out little spear if in there thou be! 10 



OLD ENGLISH EPIC • 3 

Sat a smith, 

A hard blade hammered. 

Out little spear if in there thou be! 

Six smiths sat, 

Fighting spears forged they. 15 

Out spear, out! 
No longer stay in! 
If any iron be found herein, 
The work of witches, away it must melt. 

Be thou shot in the fell, 20 

Be thou shot in the flesh, 

Be thou shot in the blood, 

Be thou shot in the bone, 

Be thou shot in the limb, 

Thy life shall be shielded. 25 

Be it shot of Esa, 

Be it shot of Elves, 

Be it shot of Hags, 

I help thee surely. 
This for cure of Esa-shot, 30 

This for cure of Elf-shot, 
This for cure of Hag-shot, 

I help thee surely. 
Witch fly away to the woods and the mountains. 
Healed be thy hurt! So help thee the Lord. 35 



II. OLD ENGLISH EPIC 

THE LIFE OF THE GLEEMAN 

(From the Widsith) 

Widsith unlocked his store of lays 
Farthest he fared among folk on earth 
Through sundry lands receiving gifts 



FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

In many a mead-hall. From Myrgings sprung 
His ancient line. With Alhild beloved 
Weaver of peace he went at the first 
Eastward from Angles to Ermanric's home 
King of the Reths, the ruthless traitor 
And treaty-breaker. Much-travelled he sang: — 



I was with Ermanric all that time (88) 10 

But the king of the Goths proved kind to me 

Gave me a ring that royal giver, 

Of gold-work pure, worth good six hundred 

Shining shillings, as shown by scale. 

When home I returned my treasure I gave 15 

To Edgils my lord, my beloved protector, 

In lieu of the lands he let me hold, 

The ruler of Myrgings in right of my father. 

Alhild my lady, Edwin's daughter, 

Queen of the daring, bequeathed me another; 20 

Praise of her bounty was published abroad, 

When I made my lays through many a 'land; 

Told of the goodliest gold-decked queen 

Known among men for making of gifts. 

Then Shilling and I with clear voice chanting, 25 

Lifted the song before our lord. 

Loud to the harp our lay rang out; 

Many there were, warriors mighty, 

Skilled in our art who openly said 

They never heard singing of songs that was better. 30 

Far I roamed o'er the realm of the Goths 

Seeking for comrades the strongest and bravest: 

Ever the first were Ermanric's followers. . . .( TI1 ) 

Many a spear, sped from the midst of them, (127) 

Yelling aloud as it leaped at the foe. 

Wudga and Hama took women and men; 35 

The banished comrades won booty of gold. 



OLD ENGLISH EPIC 5 

In all my faring I found it true : 

He to whom God hath given the power 

To be lord of men, is most beloved, 40 

Who holds his kingdom while here he lives. 

Thus fated to wander, wayfaring gleemen 

Make their songs in many a land, 

Saying their need and speaking their thanks. 

North or South, some one they meet, 45 

A judge of songs or a generous giver, 

Proud to be praised in presence of liegemen, 

Honored in lays till all is fled, 

Life and light together. Who lives for glory 

Holds under heaven the height of fame. 50 



THE MYTH OF THE SHEAF-CHILD 

(From Beowulf, lines 1-52) 

List to an old-time lay of the Spear-Danes 

Full of the prowess of famous kings, 

Deeds of renown that were done by the heroes; 

Scyld the Sheaf-child from scourging foemen, 

From raiders a-many their mead-halls wrested. 5 

He lived to be feared, though first as a waif, 

Puny and frail he was found on the shore. 

He grew to be great, and was girt with power 

Till the border-tribes all obeyed his rule, 

And sea-folk hardy that sit by the whale-path 10 

Gave him tribute, a good king he. 

In after years an heir was born to him, 

A goodly youth, whom God had sent 

To stay and support his people in need. 



FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

(Long; time leaderless living in woe, 15 

The sorrow they suffered He saw full well.) 

The Lord of Glory did lend him honor, 

Beowulf's fame afar was borne, 

Son of old Scyld in the Scandian lands. 

A youthful heir must be open-handed, 20 

Furnish the friends of his father with plenty 

That thus in his age, in the hour of battle 

Willing comrades may crowd around him 

Eager and true. In every tribe 

Honorable deeds shall adorn an earl. 25 



The aged Scyld, when his hour had come, 

Famous and praised, departed to God. 

His faithful comrades carried him down 

To the brink of the sea, as himself had bidden, 

The Scyldings' friend before he fell silent, 30 

Their lord beloved who long had ruled them. 

Out in the bay a boat was waiting 

Coated with ice, 'twas the King's own barge. 

They lifted aboard their bracelet-bestower 

And down on the deck their dear lord laid, 35 

Hard by the mast. Heaped-up treasure 

Gathered from far they gave him along. 

Never was ship more nobly laden 

With wondrous weapons and warlike gear. 

Swords and corselets covered his breast, 40 

Floating riches to ride afar with him 

Out o'er the waves at the will of the sea. 

No less they dowered their lord with treasure 

Things of price, than those who at first 

Had launched him forth as a little child 45 

Alone on the deep to drift o'er the billows. 

They gave him to boot a gilded banner, 

High o'er his head they hung it aloft, 



OLD ENGLISH EPIC 



Then set him adrift, let the surges bear him: 

Sad were their hearts, their spirits mournful; 50 

Man hath not heard, no mortal can say 

Who found that barge's floating burden. 



THE SEA VOYAGE 

(From the same, lines 205-257) 

Beowulf, the hero, grew up at the court of his uncle Hygelac, 
King of the Geats or Jutes. Having heard how Heorot the 
great hall of the Danish Hrothgar, was ravaged by a man-monster 
named Grendel, he determined to rid King Hrothgar of his un- 
bidden guest, and prepared for the adventure. 

Beowulf chose from the band of the Jutes ( 20 5) 

Heroes brave, the best he could find; 

He with fourteen followers hardy 

Went to embark: he was wise in seamanship, 

Showed them the landmarks, leading the way. 5 

Soon they descried their craft in the water, 

At the foot of the cliff. Then climbed aboard 

The chosen troop; the tide was churning 

Sea against sand; they stowed away 

In the hold of the ship their shining armor, 10 

War-gear and weapons; the warriors launched 

Their well-braced boat on her welcome voyage. 

Swift o'er the waves with a wind that favored, 

Foam on her breast, like a bird she flew; 

A day and a night they drove to seaward, 15 

Cut the waves with the curving prow, 

Till the seamen that sailed her sighted the land, 

Shining cliffs and coast-wise hills, 

Headlands bold. The harbor opened, 



FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Their cruise was ended. Then quickly the sailors 20 

The crew of Weder-folk clambered ashore; 

Moored their craft with clank of chain-mail 

And goodly war-gear. God they thanked 

That their way was smooth o'er the surging waves. 

High on the shore, the Scylding coast-guard 25 

Saw from the cliff where he kept his watch, 
Glittering shields o'er the gang-plank carried, 
Polished weapons: it puzzled him sore, 
He wondered in mind who the men might be. 
Down to the strand on his steed came riding 30 

Hrothgar's thane, with threatening arm 
Shook his war-spear and shouted this challenge: 
"Who are ye, men, all mailed and harnessed 
That brought yon ship o'er the broad sea-ways 
And hither have come across the water 35 

To land on our shores. Long have I stood 
As coast-guard here, and kept my sea-watch 
Lest harrying foe with hostile fleet 
Should dare to damage our Danish land. 
Armed men never from overseas came 40 

More openly hither. But how do ye know 
The law of the land doth give ye leave 
To come thus near. I never have seen 
Statelier earl upon earth than him, — 
Yon hero in harness. No house-carl he, 45 

In lordly array, if looks speak true, 
And noble bearing. But now I must learn 
Your names and country, ere nearer ye come, 
Underhand spies, for aught I know, 
In Danish land. Now listen ye strangers, 50 

In from the sea, to toy open challenge : 
Heed ye my words and haste me to know- 
Whence ye have come and what your errand. 



OLD ENGLISH EPIC 9 

THE FIGHT WITH GRENDEL 

(From the same, lines 710-836) 

Beowulf made known his errand, and was welcomed in Heorot 
by the Danish King. When darkness fell, Hrothgar wished 
Beowulf and his men godspeed, and left the hall. The hero, 
ere he lay down, put away his weapons, for, said he, "I count 
myself not inferior to Grendel in main strength, therefore I will 
meet him in straight hand-to-hand fashion, and leave the issue 
to fate." 

Now Grendel came, from his crags of mist (7 10 ) 

Across the moor; he was curst of God. 

The murderous prowler meant to surprise 

In the high-built hall his human prey. 

He stalked neath the clouds, till steep before him 5 

The house of revelry rose in his path, 

The gold-hall of heroes, the gaily adorned. 

Hrothgar's home he had hunted full often, 

But never before had he found to receive him 

So hardy a hero, such hall-guards there. 10 

Close to the building crept the slayer, 

Doomed to misery. The door gave way, 

Though fastened with bolts, when his fist fell on it. 

Maddened he broke through the breach he had made; 

Swoln with anger and eager to slay, 15 

The ravening fiend o'er the bright-paved floor 

Furious ran, while flashed from his eyes 

An ugly glare like embers aglow. 

He saw in the hall, all huddled together, 

The heroes asleep. Then laughed in his heart 20 

The hideous fiend; he hoped ere dawn 

To sunder body from soul of each; 

He looked to appease his lust of blood, 

Glut his maw with the men he would slay. 



IO FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

But Wyrd had otherwise willed his doom; 25 

Never again should he get a victim 

After that night. Narrowly watched 

Hygelac's thane how the horrible slayer 

Forward should charge in fierce attack. 

Nor was the monster minded to wait: 30 

Sudden he sprang on a sleeping thane, 

Ere he could stir he slit him open; 

Bit through the bone-joints, gulped the blood, 

Greedily bolted the body piecemeal. 

Soon he had swallowed the slain man wholly, 35 

Hands and feet. Then forward he hastened; 

Sprang at the hero, and seized him at rest; 

Fiercely clutched him with fiendish claw. 

But quickly Beowulf caught his forearm, 

And threw himself on it with all his weight. 40 

Straight discovered that crafty plotter, 

That never in all midearth had he met 

In any man a mightier grip. 

Gone was his courage, and craven fear 

Sat in his heart, yet helped him no sooner. 45 

Fain would he hide in his hole in the fenland. 

His devil's den. A different welcome 

From former days he found that night! 

Now Hygelac's thane, the hardy, remembered 

His evening's boast, and bounding up, 50 

Grendel he clenched, and cracked his fingers; 

The monster tried flight, but the man pursued; 

The ravager hoped to wrench himself free, 

And gain the fen, for he felt his fingers 

Helpless and limp in the hold of his foe. 55 

'Twas a sorry visit the man-devourer 

Made to the Hall of the Hart that night. 

Dread was the din, the Danes in their houses 

Listened in awe to the ale-spilling fray. 

The hardiest blenched as the hall-foes wrestled 60 



OLD ENGLISH EPIC II 

In terrible rage. The rafters groaned; 
Twas wonder great that the wine-hall stood, 
Firm 'gainst the fighters' furious onslaught. 
Nor fell to the ground, that glorious building. 
With bands of iron 'twas braced and stiffened 65 

Within and without. But off from the sill 
Many a mead-bench mounted with gold 
Was wrung where they wrestled in wrath together. 
The Scylding nobles never imagined 

That open attack, or treacherous cunning, 70 

Could wreck or ruin their royal hall, 
The lofty and antlered, unless the flames 
Should some day swallow it up in smoke. 

The din was renewed, the noise redoubled; 

Each man of the Danes was mute with dread, 75 

That heard from the wall the wail of woe, 

The gruesome song of the godless fiend, 

His howl of defeat, as the slave of hell 

Bemoaned his hurt. The man held fast; 

Greatest he was in grip of strength, 

Of all that dwelt upon earth that day. 80 

Loath in his heart was the hero-deliverer 

To let escape his slaughterous guest. 

Of little use that life he deemed 

To human kind. The comrades of Beowulf 85 

Unsheathed their weapons to ward their leader; 

Eagerly brandished their ancient blades, 

The life of their peerless lord to defend. 

Little they deemed, those dauntless warriors, 

As they leaped to the fray, those lusty fighters, 90 

Laying on boldly to left and to right, 

Eager to slay, that no sword upon earth 

No keenest weapon could wound that monster: 

Point would not pierce, he was proof against iron; 

'Gainst victory-blades the devourer was charmed. 95 



12 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

But a woful end awaited the wretch, 
That very day he was doomed to depart, 
And fare afar to the fiends' domain. 

Now Grendel found, who in former days 

So many a warrior had wantonly slain, ioo 

In brutish lust, abandoned of God, 

That the frame of his body was breaking at last. 

Keen of courage, the kinsman of Hygelac 

Held him grimly gripped in his hands. 

Loath was each to the other alive. 105 

The grisly monster got his death-wound: 

A huge split opened under his shoulder; 

Crunched the socket, cracked the sinews, 

Glory great was given to Beowulf. 

But Grendel escaped with his gaping wound, no 

O'er the dreary moor his dark den sought, 

Crawled to his lair. 'Twas clear to him then, 

The count of his hours to end had come, 

Done were his days. The Danes were glad. 

The hard fight was over, they had their desire. 115 

Cleared was the hall, 'twas cleansed by the hero 

With keen heart and courage, who came from afar. 

The Lord of the Jutes rejoiced in his work, 

The deed of renown he had done that night. 

His boast to the Danes he bravely fulfilled; 120 

From lingering woe delivered them all; 

From heavy sorrow they suffered in heart; 

From dire distress they endured so long; 

From toil and from trouble. This token they saw: 

The hero had laid the hand of Grendel 125 

Both arm and claws, the whole forequarter 

With clutches huge, 'neath the high-peaked roof. 



OLD ENGLISH EPIC 1 3 

THE FIGHT WITH GRENDEL'S MOTHER 

(From the same, lines, 1345-1650) 

After a day spent in song and feast, the hall was cleared, and 
the Danes slept in it as of old. But during the night there was 
an unlooked for attack. Grendel's dam, a wolfish water-wife, 
broke into Hart Hall, and carried off the king's best thane. The 
next morning Beowulf, who had slept elsewhere, heard from 
Hrothgar what had happened, and was asked to undertake a 
second and more perilous adventure. But first the king de- 
scribed to him the haunts of the monsters. 

"I have heard my people, the peasant folk ( I 345) 

Who house by the border and hold the fens, 

Say they have seen two creatures strange, 

Huge march-stalkers, haunting the moorland, 

Wanderers outcast. One of the two 5 

Seemed to their sight to resemble a woman; 

The other manlike, a monster misshapen, 

But huger in bulk than human kind, 

Trod an exile's track of woe. 

The folk of the fen in former days 10 

Named him Grendel. Unknown his father, 

Or what his descent from demons obscure. 

Lonely and waste is the land they inhabit, 

Wolf-cliffs wild and windy headlands, 

Ledges of mist, where mountain torrents 15 

Downward plunge to dark abysses, 

And flow unseen. Not far from here 

O'er the moorland in miles, a mere expands: 

Spray-frosted trees o'erspread it, and hang 

O'er the water with roots fast wedged in the rocks. 20 

There nightly is seen, beneath the flood, 

A marvellous light. There lives not the man 

Has fathomed the depth of the dismal mere. 



14 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Though the heather-stepper, the strong-horned stag, 

Seek this cover, forspent with the chase, 25 

Tracked by the hounds, he will turn at bay, 

To die on the brink ere he brave the plunge, 

Hide his head in the haunted pool. 

Wan from its depths the waves are dashed, 

When wicked storms are stirred by the wind, 30 

And from sullen skies descends the rain. 

In thee is our hope of help once more. 

Not yet thou hast learned where leads the way 

To the lurking-hole of this hatcher of outrage. 

Seek, if thou dare, the dreaded spot! . 35 

Richly I pay thee for risking this fight, 

With heirlooms golden and ancient rings, 

As I paid thee before, if thou come back alive." 

Beowulf spoke, the son of Ecgtheow: 
"Sorrow not gray-beard, nor grieve o'er thy friend! 40 

Vengeance is better than bootless mourning. 
To each of us here the end must come 
Of life upon earth: let him who may 
Win glory ere death. I deem that best, 
The lot of the brave, when life is over. 45 

Rise, O realm-ward, ride we in haste, 
To track the hag that whelped this Grendel. 
I tell thee in truth, she may turn where she will, 
No cave of ocean nor cover of wood, 

No hole in the ground shall hide her from me. 50 

But one day more thy woe endure, 
And nurse thy hope as I know thou wilt." 
Sprang to his feet the sage old king 
Gave praise to God for the promise spoken. 
And now for Hrothgar a horse was bridled, 55 

A curly-maned steed. The king rode on, 
Bold on his charger. A band of shield-men 
Followed on foot. Afar they saw 
Footprints leading along the forest. 



OLD ENGLISH EPIC 1 5 

They followed the tracks, and found she had crossed 60 

Over the dark moor, dragging the body 

Of the goodliest thane that guarded with Hrothgar 

Heorot Hall, and the home of the king. 

The well-born hero held the trail; 

Up rugged paths, o'er perilous ridges, 65 

Through passes narrow, an unknown way, 

By beetling crags, and caves of the nicors. 

He went before with a chosen few, 

Warriors skilled, to scan the way. 

Sudden they came on a cluster of trees 70 

Overhanging a hoary rock, 

A gloomy grove; and gurgling below, 

A stir of waters all stained with blood. 

Sick at heart were the Scylding chiefs, 

Many a thane was thrilled with woe, 75 

For there they beheld the head of ^schere 

Far beneath at the foot of the cliff. 

They leaned and watched the waters boil 

With bloody froth. The band sat down, 

While the war-horn sang its summons to battle. 80 

They saw in the water sea-snakes a many, 

Water-dragons weird, that wallowed about. 

At the base of the cliff lay basking the nicors, 

Who oft at sunrise ply seaward their journey, 

To hunt on the ship-trails and scour the main, 85 

Sea-beasts and serpents. Sudden they fled, 

Wrathful and grim, aroused by the hail 

Of the battle-horn shrill. The chief of the Jutes, 

With a bolt from his bow a beast did sunder 

From life and sea-frolic; sent the keen shaft 90 

Straight to his vitals. Slow he floated, 

Upturned and dead at the top .of the waves. 

Eager they boarded their ocean-quarry; 

With barb-hooked boar-spears the beast they gaffed, 

Savagely broached him and brought him to shore, 95 



1 6 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Wave-plunger weird. The warriors viewed 
The grisly stranger. But straightway Beowulf 
Donned his corslet nor cared for his life. . . . (1442) 

To Hrothgar spoke the son of Ecgtheow: i I 473) 

" Remember O honored heir of Healfdene, 100 

Now that I go, thou noble king, 

Warriors' gold-friend, what we agreed on, 

If I my life should lose in thy cause, 

That thou wouldst stand in stead of my father, 

Fulfil his office when I was gone. 

Be guardian thou, to my thanes and kinsmen, 105 

My faithful friends, if I fail to return. 

To Hygelac send, Hrothgar beloved, 

The goodly gifts thou gavest to me. 

May the Lord of the Jutes, when he looks on this no 

treasure, 
May Hrethel's son, when he sees these gifts, 
Know that I found a noble giver, 
And joyed while I lived, in a generous lord. 
This ancient heirloom to Unferth give, 
To the far-famed warrior, my wondrous sword 115 

Of matchless metal, I must with Hrunting 
Glory gain, or go to my death." 

After these words the Weder-Jute lord 

Sprang to his task, nor staid for an answer. 

Swiftly he sank 'neath the swirling flood; 120 

'Twas an hour's time ere he touched the bottom. 

Soon the sea-hag, savage and wild, 

Who had roamed through her watery realms at will, 

For winters a hundred, was 'ware from below 

An earthling had entered her ocean domain. 125 

Quickly she reached and caught the hero; 

Grappled him grimly with gruesome claws. 

Yet he got no scratch, his skin was whole; 



OLD ENGLISH EPIC 1 7 

His battle-sark shielded his body from harm. 

In vain she tried, with her crooked fingers, 130 

To tear the links of his close-locked mail. 

Away to her den, the wolf-slut dragged 

Beowulf the bold, o'er the bottom ooze. 

Though eager to smite her, his arm was helpless. 

Swimming monsters swarmed about him, 135 

Dented his mail with dreadful tusks. 

Sudden the warrior was 'ware they had come 

To a sea-hall strange and seeming hostile, 

Where water came not nor waves oppressed, 

For the caverned rock all round kept back 140 

The swallowing sea. He saw a light, 

A flicker of flame that flashed and shone. 

Now first he discerned the sea-slut monstrous, 

The water- wife wolfish. His weapon he raised, 

And struck with his sword a swinging blow. 145 

Sang on her head the hard-forged blade 

Its war-song wild. But the warrior found 

That his battle-flasher refused to bite, 

Or maim the foe. It failed its master 

In the hour of need, though oft it had cloven 150 

Helmets, and carved the casques of the doomed 

In combats fierce. For the first time now 

His treasure failed him, fallen from honor. 

But Hygelac's earl took heart of courage; 

In mood defiant he fronted his foe. 155 

The angry hero hurled to the ground, 

In high disdain, the hilt of the sword, 

The gaudy and jewelled; rejoiced in the strength 

Of his arm unaided. So all should do 

Who glory would find and fame abiding, 160 

In the crash of conflict, nor care for their lives: 

The Lord of the Battle- Jutes braved the encounter; 

The murderous hag by the hair he caught; 

Down he dragged the dam of Grendel 



18 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

In his swelling rage, till she sprawled on the floor. 165 

Quick to repay in kind what she got, 

On her foe she fastened her fearful clutches; 

Enfolded the warrior weary with fighting; 

The sure-footed hero stumbled and fell. 

On his prostrate body she squatted enormous; 170 

Unsheathed her hip-knife, shining and broad, 

Her son to avenge, her offspring sole. 

But the close-linked corslet covered his breast, 

Parried the stroke and saved his life. 

All had been over with Ecgtheow's son, 175 

Under the depths of the Ocean vast, 

Had not his harness availed to help him, 

His battle-net stiff, and the strength of God. 

The Ruler of battles aright decided it; 

The Wielder all-wise awarded the victory: 180 

Lightly the hero leaped to his feet. 

He spied 'mongst the arms a sword surpassing, 

Huge and ancient, a hard-forged slayer, 

Weapon matchless and warriors' delight, 

Save that its weight was more than another 185 

Might bear into battle or brandish in war; 

Giants had forged that finest of blades. 

Then seized its chain-hilt the chief of the Scyldings; 

His wrath was aroused, reckless his mood, 

As he brandished the sword for a savage blow. 190 

Bit the blade in the back of her neck, 

Cut the neck-bone, and cleft its way 

Clean through her body; she sank to the ground, 

The sword was gory; glad was the hero. 

A light flashed out from the inmost den, 

Like heaven's candle, when clear it shines 195 

From cloudless skies. He scanned the cave, 

Walked by the wall, his weapon upraised; 

Grim in his hand the hilt he gripped. 

Well that sword had served in the battle. 200 



OLD ENGLISH EPIC 1 9 

Steadily onward he strode through the cave, 

Ready to wreak the wrongs untold, 

That the man-beast had wrought in the realm of the 

Danes. . . . (1579) 

He gave him his due when Grendel he found {1589) 205 

Stretched as in sleep, and spent with the battle. 
But dead was the fiend, the fight at Heorot 
Had laid him low. The lifeless body 
Sprang from the blows of Beowulf's sword, 
As fiercely he hacked the head from the carcass. 210 

But the men who were watching the water with Hrothgar, 

Suddenly saw a stir in the waves, 

The chop of the sea all churned up with blood 

And bubbling gore. The gray-haired chiefs 

For Beowulf grieved, agreeing together 215 

That hope there was none of his home-returning, 

With victory crowned, to revisit his lord. 

Most of them feared he had fallen prey 

To the mere-wolf dread in the depths of the sea. 

When evening came, the Scyldings all 220 

Forsook the headland, and Hrothgar himself 

Turned homeward his steps. But sick at heart 

The strangers sat and stared at the sea, 

Hoped against hope to behold their comrade 

And leader again. 

Now that goodly sword 225 

Began to melt with the gore of the monster; 
In bloody drippings it dwindled away. 
'Twas a marvellous sight: it melted like ice, 
When fetters of frost the Father unlocks, 
Unravels the ropes of the wrinkled ice, 230 

Lord and Master of months and seasons. 
Beheld in the hall the hero from Juteland 
Treasures unnumbered, but naught he took, 
Save Grendel's head, and the hilt of the sword, 



20 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Bright and jeweled, — the blade had melted, 235 

Its metal had vanished, so venomous hot 

Was the blood of the demon-brute dead in the cave. 



Soon was in the sea the slayer of monsters; 

Upward he shot through the shimmer of waves; 

Cleared was the ocean, cleansed were its waters, 240 

The wolfish water-hag wallowed no more; 

The mere-wife had yielded her miserable life. 

Swift to the shore, the sailors' deliverer 

Came lustily swimming, with sea-spoil laden; 

Rejoiced in the burden he bore to the land. 245 

Ran to meet him his mailed comrades, 

With thanks to God who gave them their leader 

Safe again back and sound from the deep. 

Quickly their hero's helmet they loosened, 

Unbuckled his breastplate. The blood-stained waves 250 

Fell to a calm 'neath the quiet sky. 

Back they returned o'er the tracks with the footprints, 

Merrily measured the miles o'er the fen, 

Way they knew well, those warriors brave; 

Brought from the holm-cliff the head of the monster; 255 

'Twas toil and labor to lift the burden, 

Four of their stoutest scarce could carry it 

Swung from a spear-pole, a staggering load. . . . (i6j8) 

Thus the fourteen of them, thanes adventurous, (1641) 

Marched o'er the moor to the mead-hall of Hrothgar. 260 

Tall in the midst of them towered the hero; 

Strode among his comrades, till they came to the hall. 

In went Beowulf, the brave and victorious, 

Battle-beast hardy, Hrothgar to greet. 

Lifting by the hair the head of Grendel, 265 

They laid it in the hall, where the heroes were carousing, 

Right before the king, and right before the queen; 

Gruesome was the sight that greeted the Danes. 



OLD ENGLISH EPIC 21 

BEOWULF'S LAST FIGHT AND DEATH 

(From the same, lines 251 1-2820) 

Beowulf left with the Danes his grisly trophies of battle, the 
head of Grendel, his huge forequarter, and the hilt of the giant 
sword with its mystical runic inscription. Loading his boat 
with the gifts of Hrothgar, he and his comrades sailed away 
home. After the death of Hygelac and his son, Beowulf became 
king of the Jutes, and ruled over them fifty years. In his old 
age his people were harried by a fire-dragon whom the hero went 
out to fight. It seems that one of Beowulf's men, flying for 
shelter, had come upon a treasure hid in a deep cave or barrow, 
guarded by a dragon. Long years before, an earl, the last of 
his race, had buried the treasure. After his death the dragon, 
sniffing about the stones, had found it and guarded it three hundred 
years, until Beowulf's man discovered the place, and carried off 
one of the golden goblets. In revenge the dragon made nightly 
raids on Beowulf's realm, flying through the air, spitting fire, 
burning houses and villages, even Beowulf's hall, the "gift-stool" 
of the Jutes. Beowulf had an iron shield made against the dragon's 
fiery breath, and with eleven companions, sought out the hill- 
vault near the sea. Before attacking the monster he spoke these 
words to his comrades: 

Beowulf said to them, brave words spoke he: 

"Brunt of battles I bore in my youth, 

One fight more I make this day. 

I mean to win fame defending my people, 

If the grim destroyer will seek me out, 5 

Come at my call from his cavern dark." 

Then he greeted his thanes each one, 

For the last time hailed his helmeted warriors, 

His comrades dear. "I should carry no sword, 

No weapon of war 'gainst the worm should bear, 10 

If the foe I might slay by strength of my arm, 

As Grendel I slew long since by my hand. 



2 2 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

But I look to fight a fiery battle, 

With scorching puffs of poisonous breath. 

For this I bear both breastplate and shield; 15 

No foot will I flinch from the foe of the barrow. 

Wyrd is over us, each shall meet 

His doom ordained at the dragon-cliff! 

Bold is my mood, but my boast I omit 

'Gainst the battle-flier. Abide ye here, 20 

Heroes in harness, hard by the barrow, 

Cased in your armor the issue await: 

Which of us two his wounds shall survive. 

Not yours the attempt, the task is mine. 

'Tis meant for no man but me alone 25 

To measure his might 'gainst the monster fierce. 

I get you the gold in glorious fight, 

Or battle-death bitter shall bear off your lord." 

Uprose with his shield the shining hero, 
Bold 'neath his helmet. He bore his harness 30 

In under the cliff; alone he went, 
Himself he trusted; no task for faint-heart. 
Then saw by the wall the warrior brave, 
Hero of many a hard-fought battle, 
Arches of stone that opened a way; 

From the rocky gate there gushed a stream, 35 

Bubbling and boiling with battle-fire. 
So great the heat no hope was there 
To come at the hoard in the cavern's depth, 
Unscathed by the blast of the scorching dragon. 
He let from his breast his battle-cry leap, 40 

The lord of the Hrethlings with wrath was swelling; 
Stormed the stout-heart; strong and clear 
Through the gloom of the cave his cry went ringing. 
Hate was aroused, the hoard-ward knew 45 

The leader's hail. Too late 'twas now 
To parley for peace. The poisonous breath 
Of the monster shot from the mouth of the cave, 



OLD ENGLISH EPIC 23 

Reeking hot. The hollow earth rumbled. 

The man by the rock upraised his shield, 50 

The Lord of the Jutes, 'gainst the loathly dragon. 

Now kindled for battle the curled-up beast; 

The king undaunted with drawn sword stood, 

('Twas an heirloom olden with edge of lightning.) 

Each was so fierce he affrighted the other. 55 

Towering tall 'neath tilted shield, 

Waited the king as the worm coiled back, 

Sudden to spring: so stood he and waited. 

Blazing he came in coils of fire 

Swift to his doom. The shield of iron 60 

Sheltered the hero too short a while, — 

Life and limb it less protected 

Than he hoped it would, for the weapon he held, 

First time in war was wielded that day; 

Wyrd had not willed he should win the fight. 

But the Lord of the Jutes uplifted his arm, 65 

Smote the scaly worm, struck him so fierce 

That his ancient bright-edged blade gave way, 

Bent on the bone, and bit less sure 

Than its owner had need in his hour of peril. 

That sword-stroke roused the wrath of the cave-guard; 70 

Fire and flame afar he spurted, 

Blaze of battle; but Beowulf there 

No victory boasted: his blade had failed him, 

His naked in battle, as never it should have, 

Well-tempered iron! Nor easy it was 75 

For Ecgtheow's heir, honored and famous, 

This earth to forsake, forever to leave it; 

Yet he must go, against his will 

Elsewhere to dwell. So we all must leave 

This fleeting life. — Erelong the foes 80 

Bursting with wrath the battle renewed. 

The hoard-ward took heart, and with heaving breast 

Came charging amain. The champion brave, 



24 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Strength of his people, was sore oppressed, 85 

Enfolded by flame. No faithful comrades 

Crowded about him, his chosen band, 

All aethelings' sons, to save their lives, 

Fled to the wood. One of them only 

Felt surging sorrow; for nought can still 90 

Call of kin in a comrade true; 

Wiglaf his name, 'twas Weohstan's son 

Shield-thane beloved, lord of the Scylfings 

y^lfhere's kinsman. When his king he saw 

Hard by the heat under helmet oppressed, 95 

He remembered the gifts he had got of old, 

Lands and wealth of the Waegmunding line, 

The folk-rights all that his father's had been; 

He could hold no longer, but hard he gripped 

Linden shield yellow and ancient sword. . . . (2610) 100 

For the first time there the faithful thane, {2652) 

Youthful and stalwart, stood with his leader, 

Shoulder to shoulder in shock of battle. 

Nor melted his courage, nor cracked his blade, 

His war-sword true, as the worm found out 105 

When together they got in grim encounter. 

Wiglaf in wrath upraided his comrades, 
Sore was his heart as he spake these words: 
"Well I mind when our mead we drank 
In the princely hall, how we promised our lord no 

Who gave us these rings and golden armlets, 
That we would repay his war-gifts rich, 
Helmets and armor, if haply should come 
His hour of peril; us hath he made 

Thanes of his choice for this adventure; 115 

Spurred us to glory, and gave us these treasures 
Because he deemed us doughty spearmen, 
Helmeted warriors, hardy and brave. 
Yet all the while, unhelped and alone, 



OLD ENGLISH EPIC 25 

He meant to finish this feat of strength, 120 

Shepherd of men and mightiest lord 

Of daring deeds. The day is come, — 

Now is the hour he needs the aid 

Of spearmen good. Let us go to him now, 

Help our hero while hard bestead 125 

By the nimble flames. God knows that I 

Had rather the fire should ruthlessly fold 

My body with his, than harbor me safe. 

Shame it were surely our shields to carry 

Home to our lands, unless we first 130 

Slay this foe and save the life 

Of the Weder-king. Full well I know 

To leave him thus, alone to endure, 

Bereft of aid, breaks ancient right. 

My helmet and sword shall serve for us both, 135 

Shield and armor we share to-day." 

Waded the warrior through welter and reek; 

Buckler and helmet he bore to his master; 

Heartened the hero with words of hope: 

"Do thy best now, dearest Beowulf, 140 

Years ago, in youth, thou vowedst 

Living, ne'er to lose thine honor, 

Shield thy life and show thy valor. 

I stand by thee to the end!" 

After these words the worm came on, 145 

Snorting with rage, for a second charge; 

All mottled with fire his foes he sought, 

The warriors hated. But Wiglaf's shield 

Was burnt to the boss by the billows of fire; 

His harness helped not the hero young. 150 

Shelter he found 'neath the shield of his kinsman, 

When the crackling blaze had crumbled his own. 

But mindful of glory, the mighty hero 

Smote amain with his matchless sword. 



26 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Down it hurtled, driven by anger, 155 

Till it stuck in the skull, then snapped the blade, 

Broken was Naegling, Beowulf's sword, 

Ancient and gray. 'Twas granted him never 

To count on edge of iron in battle; 

His hand was too heavy, too hard his strokes, 160 

As I have heard tell, for every blade 

He brandished in battle: the best gave way, 

And left him helpless and hard bestead. 

Now for a third time neared the destroyer; 

The fire-drake fierce, old feuds remembering, 165 

Charged the warrior who wavered an instant; 

Blazing he came and closed his fangs 

On Beowulf's throat; and throbbing spirts 

Of life-blood dark o'erdrenched the hero. 

Then in the hour of utmost peril, 170 

The stripling proved what stock hie came of; 
Showed his endurance and dauntless courage. 
Though burnt was his hand when he backed his kinsman, 
With head unguarded the good thane charged, 
Thrust from below at the loathly dragon, 175 

Pierced with the point and plunged the blade in, 
The gleaming-bright, till the glow abated 
Waning low. Ere long the king 
Came to himself, and swiftly drew 
The warknife that hung at his harness' side, 
And cut in two the coiled monster. 180 

So felled they the foe and finished him bravely. 
Together they killed him, the kinsmen two, 
A noble pair. So needs must do 

Comrades in peril. For the king it proved 185 

His uttermost triumph, the end of his deeds 
And work in the world. The wound began, 
Where the cave-dragon savage had sunk his teeth, 
To swell and fever, and soon he found 



OLD ENGLISH EPICS 27 

That the baleful poison pulsed through his blood, 190 

And burned in his breast. The brave old warrior 

Sat by the wall and summoned his thoughts 

Gazed on the wondrous work of the giants 

Arches of stone, firm-set on their pillars, 

Upheld that hill-vault hoar and ancient. 195 

Now Beowulf's thane, the brave and faithful 

Dashed with water his darling lord, 

His comrade and king all covered with blood 

And faint with the fight; unfastened his helmet. 

Beowulf spoke despite his hurt, 200 

His piteous wound. Full well he knew 

His years on earth were ended now, 

His hours of glad life gone for aye 

His days alloted, and death was near: 

"Now would I gladly give to a son 205 

These weapons of war, had Wyrd but granted 

That heir of my own should after me come, 

Sprung from my loins. This land have I ruled 

Fifty winters. No folk-king dared, 

None of the chiefs of the neighboring tribes, 210 

To touch me with sword or assail me with terror 

Of battle-threats. I bided at home, 

Held my peace and my heritage kept, 

Seeking no feuds nor swearing false oaths. 

This gives me comfort, and gladdens me now, 215 

Though wounded sore and sick unto death. 

As I leave my life the Lord may not charge me 

With killing of kinsmen. Now quickly go, 

Wiglaf beloved, to look at the hoard,. 

Where hidden it rests 'neath the hoary rock. 220 

For the worm lies still, put asleep by his wound, 

Robbed of his riches. Then rise and haste! 

Give me to see that golden hoard, ' 

Gaze on the store of glorious gems, 



28 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

That easier then I may end my life, 225 

Leave my lordship that long I held." 

Swiftly, 'tis said, the son of Weohstan 
Obeyed the words of his bleeding lord, 
Maimed in the battle. Through the mouth of the cave 
Boldly he bore his battle-net in. 230 

Glad of the victory, he gazed about him; 
Many a sun-bright jewel he saw, 
Glittering gold, strewn on the ground, 
Heaped in the den of the dragon hoary, 
Old twilight-flier, — flagons once bright, 235 

Wassail cups wondrous of warriors departed 
Stript of their mountings. Many a helmet 
Ancient and rusted. Armlets a many, 
Curiously woven. (Wealth so hoarded, 
Buried treasure, will taint with pride, 240 

Him that hides it, whoever it be.) 
Towering high o'er the hoard he saw 
A gleaming banner with gold inwoven, 
Of broidure rare, its radiance streamed 
So bright, he could peer to the bounds of the cave, 245 

Survey its wonders; no worm was seen. 
Edge of the sword had ended his life. 
Then, as they say, that single adventurer 
Plundered the hoard that was piled by the giants; 
Gathered together old goblets and platters, 250 

Took what he liked; the towering banner 
Brightest of beacons he brought likewise. . . . (2776) 

So Wiglaf returned with treasure laden (-7^3) 

The high-souled hero hastened his steps, 

Anxiously wondered if he should find 255 

The lord of the Weders alive where he left him 

Sapped of his strength and stretched on the ground. 

As he came from the hill he beheld his comrade, 



OLD ENGLISH EPIC 29 

His lord of bounty, bleeding and faint, 

Near unto death. He dashed him once more 260 

Bravely with water, till burden of speech 

Broke from his breast, and Beowulf spoke, 

Gazing sad at the gold before him: 

"For the harvest of gold that here I look on, 

To the God of Glory I give my thanks. 265 

To the Ruler Eternal I render praise 

That ere I must go he granted me this, 

To leave to my people this priceless hoard. 

'Twas bought with my life; now look ye well 

To my people's need when I have departed. 270 

No more I may bide among ye here. 

Bid the battle-famed build on the foreland 

A far-seen barrow when flames have burnt me. 

High o'er the headland of whales it shall tower, 

A beacon and mark to remind my people. 275 

And sailors shall call it in years to come 

Beowulf's Barrow as back they drive 

Their ships from afar o'er fogbound seas." 

The great-hearted king unclasped from his neck 
A collar of gold and gave to his thane 280 

The brave young warrior, his bright-gilt helmet, 
Breastplate and ring. So bade him farewell: 
"Thou art the last last to be left of our house. 
Wyrd hath o'erwhelmed our Waegmunding line, 
Swept my kinsmen swift to their doom. 285 

Earls in their prime. I must follow them." 
These words were the last that the warrior gray 
Found in his heart ere the flames he chose. 
Swift from his bosom his soul departed 
To find the reward of the faithful and true. 290 



30 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

III. BIBLICAL EPIC 

THE FALL OF MAN 

(Younger Genesis, lines 246-764) 

The Ruler of hosts, in the realms of heaven, 

By the strength of his arm established on high 

Ten angel tribes: he trusted them well 

To serve their leader and loyally work 

The will of God, who gave them their reason, 5 

Whose hand had shaped them, their Holy Lord. 

He dowered them all with wealth; 

but one He made so great, 
Such wisdom He gave him of mind, 

such might to wield, 
In heaven he was next to God; 

so glorious He made him, 
So gleaming his hue on high, 10 

that he had from his maker, 
He was like unto shining stars. 

His lord he was bound to serve, 
Hold dear the bliss of heaven; 

he was bound to thank his lord 
For the bounteous gift of light 

that so long He let him enjoy. 
But he turned it all to evil, 

and openly stirred up strife 
Gainst Heaven's highest Ruler, 15 

who sitteth on His holy throne. 
Dear had he been to our King, 

nor could it be kept from the Lord 
That His angel proud, was plotting rebellion 



BIBLICAL EPIC 3 1 

He rose 'gainst his ruler, and railed against God. 

He uttered defiance, refused to serve Him; 

Said that his body was bright and gleaming, 20 

Wondrous and fair, nor would he further 

Give obedience to God in heaven, 

Or serve him longer. It seemed to himself 

That his power and might were more than God's, 

His followers firmer in fealty bound. 25 

Many things uttered the angel in pride; 

By the power of his single strength he planned 

To make for himself a mightier throne, 

A higher in heaven. His haughty mood 

Urged him to own, in the North and West, 30 

A stately hall. He said he doubted 

Whether he further would follow God. 

"Why should I toil" said he; 

"I need acknowledge 
No man for my master; I may with these hands 
Work marvels as many. Mine is the power 
To rear a throne more royal than His, 35 

A higher in heaven. Then why should I grovel 

to win his grace, 
Bow in obedience to Him, when I may be God 

as well as He? 
Faithful followers back me, 

unfailing in battle; 
Those hardy heroes have chosen 40 

me for their chief, 
Sturdy warriors; with such 'tis well 

wars to plan, 
Battles to fight, with friends like these, 

faithful and true, 
Loyal their hearts, their leader I'll be, 
Rule in this realm; not right I think it 
To fawn upon God for favor and gifts. 45 

Henceforth his liegeman no longer am I!" 



$2 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

When the Almighty heard all this, 

How his angel on high, with haughty lips 

Defiance uttered, and foolishly strove 49 

To rise against God, ... He was wroth in His heart, (295) 

And cast him down from his seat on high, (300) 

Hurled him to hell; from heaven banished, 

Down in those deeps he was changed to a devil. 

Thus fell the fiend with his followers all; 

Three days and nights they downward fell. 55 

Those angels of light the Lord did change 

To devils dark. For His deeds and words 

They failed to honor, wherefore the Lord 

Deprived them of light, and placed them, lost 

Deep under earth in darkest hell. 60 

There through the night immeasurably long, 

Fire unflagging they feel, each one; 

Then comes with the dawn an eastern wind, 

And bitter-cold frost, — ever fire or frost. 

Throes and hardship are theirs to endure, 65 

Banished from heaven. Their home was changed, 

When first the hollow of hell was filled 

With fallen fiends. But the faithful angels 

Held the heights of heaven above, 

While the fiends below in fire lay, 70 

The foes who in folly fought against God. 

They have their reward in the womb of hell, 

Blaze and broad flames, and bitter smoke, 

Glare and gloom. Beguiled by their pride 

The service of God they despised and forgot. . . {326) 75 

Then spoke the insolent foe (33&) 

who once was fairest of angels, 
Most dazzling in heaven, and dear to his lord; 
(Within him sorrow seethed round his heart; (353) 
Without was the reek of the rolling flames, 
The welter of fire) — such words he spake: 80 



BIBLICAL EPIC 33 

"This narrow place is nothing like 

That other world that once we knew, 

Where high in heaven our homes were set. 

Though God who gave, would not grant us to hold them, 

Rule our realm. Unrighteous his deed, 85 

To hurl us flying to this flaming pit, 

And the heat of hell, from heaven cut off! 

He hath planned to establish man in our place! 

This is the sorest of all my sorrows, 

That Adam should, — that shape of earth, — 90 

For aye possess my stronghold there, 

And live in bliss while we must endure 

This brunt of wrath. Ah welaway! 

If but my hands were free; 

if but an hour I had, 
One winter's hour, then would I with this band — ! 95 

But iron bonds are all about me; 
The rough chain rides me hard, realmless I am. 
Hell's strong clutches clamp me down, 
Pin me fast, a prey to the flames, 

Over and under me endless fire. 100 

I have never looked on a loathlier sight, 
Quenchless blaze that quickens ever. 
Cables tough, and torturing chains 
Hold me here; my hands are shackled, 
My feet are fettered; fast I am bound; 105 

I may not pass the portals of hell, 
Loose my limbs from the links that hold them, 
Hammered hard, of iron hot, 
Bars and bolts. Thereby hath God 

Gripped my neck. I know from this, no 

That the Lord of men my mind did mark; 
Saw that Adam and I should quarrel 
O'er heaven's realm, if my hands were free. 
But now we endure the throes of hell, 

darkness and heat, 



34 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Grim and bottomless. God Himself 115 

Hath swept us into swarthy gloom, 

though guiltless of sin! 
No wrong we did in his realm, 

yet robbed He us all of light; 
Cast us into cruellest woe! 

now may we wreak our wrongs, 
Pay him reward of hate; 

because he reft us of light. 
He hath marked a place called midgard, 120 

where man He hath wrought 
After His likeness. He looks to replace us 
In heaven with spotless souls! Now seek we earnestly 
How on Adam and all his offspring, 
Our wrongs we may right, and wreak our vengeance, 
If haply we may beguile him 125 

to go astray from God. 
I have no hope of the light 

that He will long enjoy; 
Of the bliss that is His forever, 

'mongst angel-hosts in heaven. 
Nor may we hope to soften 

the heart of God Almighgty. 
Then keep we that kingdom from man 

since we may come to it never; 
Tempt them to break His word, 130 

and turn from the will of their Maker. 
Thus shall His wrath be kindled, 

to cast them away forever. 
Then shall they seek this hell, 

sink to these gulfs of horror; 
And we shall hold them in chains, 

these children of men our vassals. 
Think of this deed, ye thanes of mine! 
If any there be, whom erst I favored 135 

With gifts of price, in that goodly kingdom, 



BIBLICAL EPIC 35 

Where happy we lived and held our realm, 

No fitter time he could find, to reward 

The bounty I dealt, no better way, 

Than if now he were willing at need to escape; 140 

Break through these bars, by boldness and cunning; 

Don his feather-robe, fly through the air, 

Wheeling aloft till he light on the spot 

Where Adam and Eve on earth are standing, 

In bounty and bliss while banished we are 145 

To the dark abyss. They are dearer than we 

To Heaven's Lord; they live in joy, 

They have the wealth that once was ours, 

Our realm and our right! This rueth me sore, 

That they shall in heaven be happy forever! 150 

If any of you may alter their state, 

And make them transgress the command of God, {429) 

I shall lie at ease in my links of iron. {433) 

Who gaineth me this, shall get his reward, 

The best I can give in the bounds of this fire: 155 

He shall sit with myself, who comes to say 

They have broken the law of the Lord of heaven." 

Then girded himself a foe of God; 

A crafty warrior clapped on his pinions; 

Set helmet on head, and hardily clasped it; 160 

Firmly fastened it down. He was fluent of speech, 

A master of guile He mounted aloft, 

Swung through hell's door, the hardy adventurer, 

Wheeling through mid-air, on mischief bent, 

Cleaving the flames with his fiendish skill. 165 

He hoped to deceive the servants of God; 

Trick them with lies and lead them astray; 

Tempt them to rouse the wrath of God. 

Onward he flew, with fiendish skill 

And came where Adam on earth was standing, 170 

The work of God's hand, wondrously made; 



36 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

And with him his wife, of women the fairest. (457) 

Near by stood two stately trees, (460) 

Laden all over with largess of fruit, 

Bearing their bounty, as bidden by God, 175 

Heaven's high King, whose hand had set them 

For the children of men, to make their choice 

Of good and of evil; for each must choose 

'Twixt weal and woe. Unlike was their fruit: 

One was beautiful, bright and shining, 180 

Delightful to look on; that was life's tree. 

Who tasted its fruit, should flourish forever; 

Life everlasting his lot should be. 

Age might not injure nor dread disease. 

His days should pass in pleasure unending, 185 

High in the favor of heaven's King. 

And rich reward awaits him hereafter, 

In heaven above when hence he departs. 

The second tree all swart uptowered, 

Dark and dismal: that was Death's tree. 190 

Bitter the fruit it bore unto men! 

(Both good and evil must all men know.) 

Who tasted the fruit of that fatal tree, 

His life should wane, and wither away 

In sorrow and trouble, in sweat and in toil. 195 

Age would strip him of strength and vigor, 

Gladness and glory; his goal is death. 

A little while he lingers on earth, 

But soon goes down to the darkest of lands, 

To serve the fiends in fire and woe, 200 

Hugest of tortures. The tempter knew it, 

The sneaking spy with his spite against God. 

In the shape of a serpent, he soon was coiled 

Round the tree of death, through his devil's craft. 

He took of the fruit, and turned to find 205 

The handiwork of heaven's King. 



BIBLICAL EPIC 37 

With lying words, the loathly fiend 

Came toward the man, and questioned him there: 

"Hast thou any longing Adam, 

up to God? 
I am on his errand hither 210 

fared from far. 
'Twas not long since, that I sat with God himself. 
He bade me come and tell thee (5 00 ) 

to take of this fruit. . . . 
I heard him approve thy words and deeds, (5°7) 

Praise thy life, in His light above. 

Obey the behest that His herald brings! 215 

Far stretch o'er the world the tracts of green; 
God sitteth on high, in heaven enthroned, 
Nor deigns Himself to suffer the toil 
Of this journey long. So the Lord of hosts 
His herald doth send, to speak His will. 220 

He bids thee heed and obey His words. 
Stretch forth thy hand, and hold this fruit; 
Take it and taste it, thy heart will expand, 
Thy body grow brighter; thy bounteous Lord 
Sends thee this help from heaven above." 225 

Adam answered, where on earth he stood, 

God's handiwork: "When I heard the Lord, 

The King of heaven call me aloud, 

With stern voice bid me to stand on earth, 

And obey His will, — when He brought me this woman, 230 

This winsome bride, and bid me beware 

Lest the tree of Death should darkly deceive me, 

And betray me to woe, He warned me that hell 

Should hold him ever, within whose heart 

Evil was lurking. . . . Unlike thou seemest (S3 1 ) 2 35 

To any angel that ever I saw! U38) 

Nor dost thou offer me any token, 

That truly from heaven thou hither art sent, 



38 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Come from the Lord. I cannot obey thee! 

But take thyself off! My trust is in God, 240 

My faith is in Him whose hands did fashion me, 

That He may grant me each gift from on high, 

Without sending His servant to speak in His place." 

Then wrathfully turned the tempter away; 
Went where he saw the woman standing, 245 

Winsome and fair. The words he spake 
Brought woe to the world, and worst of pangs 
To all her offspring, in after years: 
"I know ye will rouse the wrath of God, 
When I tell him myself, returned from the journey, 250 

The long hard way, that ye would not listen, 
Nor heed the message that hither He sent, 
Far from the East. He shall fare Himself 
To make you His answer; no messenger then 
His word will bear, for I wot He will kindle 255 

His anger against you. But if thou, woman, 
A willing ear to my words shalt lend, 
His vengeance yet thou mayest avert. 
Bethink thee, Eve, that through thy wit 
Ye both may be saved from bitter woe! 260 

Eat of the fruit, and thine eyes shall be light! 
Far and wide o'er the world thou shalt see, 
God himself thou shalt see on His throne, 
And the favor of Heaven shalt have forever. 
Also, dear Eve, thou may'st alter the mind 265 

Of Adam thy husband, if thou have his goodwill, 
And he trust thy words, when the truth thou revealest: 
How glad was thy heart when God's behest 
Thou promptly didst heed: mayhap he will leave 
His stubborn mood, and silence the answer 270 

Of wrath in his bosom, if both of us now 
Urge him together. Now earnestly ply him 
To do thy bidding, lest both of ye fall 
Into God's disfavor, and get you His wrath! 



BIBLICAL EPIC 39 

If this thou fulfillest, O fairest of women, 275 

I shall hide from my Lord the harsh words of Adam, 

The insults thy husband did heap upon me, 

When he challenged my honor, charged me with falsehood, 

Said I was evil, no angel of God. 

Yet well do I know all the ways of the angels, 280 

The heavenly mansions. This many a year 

With loyal heart my lord I have followed, 

And rendered to God, the Ruler of Heaven, 

My dutiful service; no devil am I!" 

So he led with his lies, and lured with his wiles 285 

The woman to wrong; till the will of the serpent 

Worked in her bosom; (the weaker mind 

God had given her.) She began to listen 

And lean to his lore. At last she took 

From the tempter the fruit of the fatal tree, 290 

Against God's word. No worse deed ever 

For man was done. 'Twas marvel great 

That the Lord everlasting allowed it to happen, 

Permitted so many men upon earth 

By lying lore to be led astray. 295 

She tasted the fruit and turned from God, 

From His word and will. Then wide was her vision 

By the gift of the fiend, who beguiled her with lies, 

And darkly betrayed her; his doing it was 

That heaven and earth more white did seem, 300 

And all the world more wondrous fair, 

More glorious-great the works of God. 

(She beheld them not by human power, 

But the fiend had falsely feigned it before her; 

Her sight deceived her, when she seemed to look 305 

So far abroad.) The fiend now spoke, 

The tempter-foe, — his tale nought profited: 

"Now thou mayst see, I need not tell thee, 

How altered thy form, O fairest Eve, 



40 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

How beauteous thy body, since obeying my words, 310 

And heeding my lore. Now light shines about thee, 

Glorious and bright. I brought it from God, 

So fair from Heaven, thou mayst feel it and touch it. 

Reveal to Adam this vision of brightness, 

Vouchsafed by me. If with simple mind 315 

He agree to my wish, I will give him his fill 

Of the glorious light I gave to thee, 

Nor store up his insolent speeches against him, 

Though scarce he deserve so swift a pardon. 

Nor shall his children be charged with his fault, 320 

Banished from heaven for his misdoing; 

Their life shall be happy, though he hath done wrong." 
Then went to Adam of women the fairest, 

The winsomest wife the world ever saw, 

(Though comely her form, as she came from God's hand 325 

Yet was she undone by darkest wiles 

And won by lies), these words she spake: (^3°) 

"Adam my lord, this fruit is so sweet, ip55) 

So blithe in my breast, so bright this herald, 

This angel of God so good and fair, 330 

By his trappings I see he is sent from above. 

'Tis wiser for us to win his favor 

Than set him against us by surly words. 

If today thou hast uttered aught that was harsh, 

He yet will forgive, if he get our obedience. 335 

What profits this strife with the spokesman of God 

Thy Lord and Master? We need his good-will, 

For he may commend us to our Maker in heaven, 

Our Ruler on high. From here I can see 

Where He sits himself, — 'tis South and East — 340 

Enwound with glory, the world's Creator. 

I behold his angels hovering about Him 

In winged robes, a radiant host 

And choir glad. Whence cometh this vision, 

If God Himself vouchsafed it not to us, 345 



BIBLICAL EPIC 41 

The King of heaven? I can hear afar, 

And look abroad o'er the bright creation 

Joyful harping I hear in heaven! 

Filled is my soul, and flooded with light, 

Since first I took and tasted this fruit. 350 

Here in my hand, dear husband, I bring it; 

Gladly I give it; from God it hath come, 

I firmly believe, as his faithful angel 

Hath told us it came, in truthful words. 

Nought else was ever on earth like this; 355 

'Tis sent by God as his spokesman declares." 

Sore she beset him, and spurred him all day 
To the deed of darkness; drove him to break 
The will of their Lord. The loathly fiend 
Stood near by, and subtly the while 360 

Incited their spirits to sin and shame. . . . (687) 

Long she urged him, till Adam at last {7°5) 

Goaded by Eve, began to yield; 
His mind was turned, he trusted too much 
The winning words that the woman spake. 365 

Yet did she it all in duty and love, 
Nor weened what woe, what wailing and sorrow 
Should come to mankind, because she had hearkened 
To the voice of the devil. She deemed she was earning 
God's approval, by giving her husband 370 

The fruit to taste, and turning his mind 
By winsome words, her will to perform. 
Death and the grave he got from the woman, 
Though it had not that name, — 'twas known as the fruit. 
Yet the devil's seduction meant death's long sleep, 375 

Doom of hell and downfall of heroes, 
Undoing of man and mortal woe, 
Because they ate of that cursed fruit. 

As soon as the evil one saw it was done, 
He laughed aloud, and leapt for joy. 380 



42 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

For the fall of them both, the bitter foe 

Gave thanks to his lord, that loathly thane! 

"Now have I got me thy grace and favor, 

Worked thy will, and won my reward, 

Man is betrayed for many a day; 385 

Adam and Eve forever have lost 

The love of their Lord, for leaving His word, 

His law and command. No more they shall hold 

The kingdom of heaven: to hell they shall go. 

They shall make the dark journey; no more thy sorrow 390 

Bear in thy breast, where bound thou liest; 

Nor mourn in thy mind, that men shall inherit 

The heights of heaven, the while we endure 

Labor and throes in a land of gloom. 

Because of thy pride, our cohorts fell, 395 

Hurled from the towering halls of heaven, 

Goodly abodes. For God was wroth 

Because we refused to fawn with his followers, 

Bow our heads in obeisance to Him. 

Therefore the Ruler was wroth in His heart, 400 

Hurled us to hell, in the heat of His anger; 

Flung to the flames the flower of His host, 

And then with His hands, in heaven He raised 

New seats of glory, and gave them to man. 

Blithe be thy mood, and merry thy breast! 405 

Double damage today is wrought! 

This brood of man hath missed forever 

The glory of heaven,— they go their way 

To the flames and thee. And God Himself 

Is made to suffer sorrow and loss. 410 

On Adam's head 'tis all repaid, 

With hate of his Lord and heroes' downfall, 

Mortal throes of men upon earth. 

Healed is my hurt, my heart expands. 

Wreaked are all our ancient wrongs, 415 

The lingering woe we long endured! 



BIBLICAL EPIC 43 

Back I'll haste to the blaze of hell, 

Satan to seek, struck into chains." 

Netherward bent his way that boder of evil, 

Stooped to the gulfs of hell and the far-flung flames. 420 



THE DROWNING OF THE EGYPTIANS 

(Exodus, lines 447-515) 

The host was harrowed with horror of drowning; 

Sea-death menaced their miserable souls. 

The slopes of the hill-sides were splashed with blood. 

There was woe on the waters, the waves spat gore; 

They were full of weapons, and frothed with slaughter. 5 

Back were beaten the bold Egyptians, 

Fled in fear; they were filled with terror. 

Headlong they hastened their homes to seek. 

Less bold were their boasts as the billows rolled o'er tlvm, 

Dread welter of waves. Not one of that army 10 

Went again home, but Wyrd from behind 

Barred with billows their backward path. 

Where ways had lain, now weltered the sea, 

The swelling flood. The storm went up 

High to the heavens; hugest of uproars 15 

Darkened the sky; the dying shrieked 

With voices doomed. The Deep streamed with blood. 

Shield-walls were shattered by shock of the tempest. 

Greatest of sea-deaths engulfed the mighty, 

Captains and troops. Retreat was cut off 20 

At the ocean's brink. Their battle-shields gleamed 

High o'er their heads as the heaped-up waters 

Compassed them round, the raging flood. 

Doomed was the host, by death hemmed in, 

Suddenly trapped. The salty billows 25 



44 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Swept with their swirling the sand from their feet, 

As the Ocean cold to its ancient bed, 

Through winding channels the churning flood, 

Came rolling back o'er the rippled bottom, 

Swift avenger, naked and wild. 30 

With slaughter was streaked the storm-dark air; 

The bursting deep with blood-terror yawned, 

When He who made it, by Moses' hand 

Unbitted the wrath of the raging flood; 

Wide it came sweeping to swallow the foe; 35 

Foamed the waters, the fated sank; 

Earth was o'erwhelmed, the air was darkened; 

Burst the wave-walls, the bulwarks tumbled; 

The sea-towers melted, when the Mighty One smote 

The pride of the host, through the pillar of fire, 40 

With holy hand from heaven above. 

The onslaught wild of the angry main 

None might oppose. He appointed their end 

In the roaring horror. Wroth was the sea: 

Up it rose, down it smote, dealing destruction. 45 

Slaughter-blood spread, the sea-wall fell, 

Up reared on high, the handiwork of God, 

When the ocean He smote with His ancient sword, 

Felled the defence of the foam-breasted waves. 

With that death-blow deep, the doomed men slept. 50 

The army of sinners their souls gave up, 

The sea-pale host, ensnared and surrounded, 

When the dark upheaval o'erwhelmed them all, 

Hugest of wild waves. The host sank down, 

Pharaoh and his folk, the flower of Egypt 55 

Utterly perished. The enemy of God 

Soon discovered, when the sea he entered, 

That the ocean's master was mightier than he. 

By the strength of His arm He decided the battle, 

Wrathful and grim. He gave the Egyptians 60 

Thorough reward for that day's work. 



CAEDMON 45 

Not one of that host to his home came back; 

Of all those warriors not one returned 

To bring the news of the battle's end, 

To tell in the towns the tidings of woe, 65 

Their husbands' doom to the heroes' wives, 

How sea-death swallowed the stately host, — 

No messenger left. The Lord Almighty 

Confounded their boasting; they fought against God. 



IV. CHRISTIAN LYRIC 

NORTHUMBRIAN HYMN 

Now hymn we aloud the Lord of Heaven, 
Praise His wisdom and wonderful power, 
The glorious works of the great Creator, 
How the Father Eternal founded this world. 
First He set for the sons of men. 
Heaven to roof them. The Holy Ruler, 
The King of mankind, then cast the foundations 
Of earth in the midst, and made thereafter 
Land for the Living, the Lord Almighty. 



46 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

(Hytmmtlf 

HYMN OF PRAISE 

(From The Crist, lines 348-377) 

Hail thou Holy One, Heaven's Ruler, 

Thou of old wert equal with the Father, 

God in the Highest, in Thy glorious home! 

No angel was yet created in heaven, 

None of the mighty unnumbered host, 5 

That keep the realms of the kingdom on high, 

Worshipping God the Wielder of majesty, 

When Thou with the Father didst first establish 

The firm foundations of the far-spread world. 

Ye share alike the Spirit of Comfort, 10 

Where ye throne on high. We therefore pray Thee 

With humble hearts, to help Thy servants. 

O Saviour Christ, we call to Thee 

To hear the cries of Thy captive people, 

Woe-entangled by wayward wills, 15 

Fettered fast by the fiends of hell, 

Cast into chains by the crew accursed, 

And held in bondage. Our hope is in Thee; 

Thou alone canst deliver Thy people. 

Help us miserable, by the might of Thy coming! 20 

Comfort us who suffer, and save us disconsolate, 

Though we have offended with our faults against Thee. 

Have mercy on Thy servants, remember our infirmit'es 

How we fail and falter with feeble hearts 

How shamefully we all have erred from Thy ways. 25 

No longer delay, our Lord and Redeemer, 

Come and deliver us, O King of Thy people! 



CYNEWULF 47 

We need Thy grace, and the gift of Thy salvation, 

That henceforth more worthily we may worship Thy name 

Walk in Thy ways, and Thy will perform. 30 



THE VOYAGE OF LIFE 

(From The Crist, lines 850-866) 

Our life is likest a long sea- voyage: 

O'er the water cold in our keels we glide, 

O'er Ocean's streams, in our stallions of the deep 

We drive afar. 'Tis a dreary waste 

Of ceaseless surges we sail across, 5 

In this wavering world, o'er wind-swept tracts 

Of open sea. Anxious the struggle, 

Ere we bring at last our barks to land, 

O'er the rough sea-ridges. Our rescue is near; 

The Son of God doth safely guide us, 10 

Helps us in to our harbor of refuge; 

Shows from the deck the sheltered waters 

Where smoothly to anchor our ancient chargers, 

Hold with the hawsers our horses of the deep. 

Then fix we our hope on that haven of safety 15 

That the Prince of Glory prepared for us all, 

The Ruler on high, when He rose to heaven. 



DOOMSDAY 

(From The Crist, lines 867-1006) 

Lo! on a sudden, and all unlooked for, 
In the dead of the night, the day of the Lord 
Shall break tremendous on man and beast, 
O'erwhelming the world and the wide creation, 



48 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

As a ruthless robber, ranging at night, 5 

Who strides through the dark with stealthy pace, 
And suddenly springs on sleep-bound heroes, 
Greets with violence his victims unguarded. 

A mighty host on the mount of Sion 

Shall gather together glad and rejoicing 10 

The faithful of the Lord, they shall find their reward. 

With one accord from the quarters four, 

And uttermost ends of the earth at once, 

Glittering angels together shall blow 

Their shattering trumpets; the trembling earth 15 

Shall shake and sink, as they sound together, 

Piercing strong to the starry track. 

Their music swells from the South and North, 

From East and from West, o'er the world's wide round. 

They wake from the dead to the day of judgement 20 

The children of men, with their challenge dread. 

Out of their ancient earth and mould, 

Forth from their sleep profound they wake them. 

Howling with fear they shall huddle and flock, 

Moaning and groaning, aghast with terror, 25 

Bewailing the deeds that were done in the body. 

Eye hath not seen a sight more awful, 

To men shall appear no portent more dread: 

Sinners and saints in strange confusion, 

Mingled together shall mount from their graves, 30 

The bright and the black: for both shall arise, 

Some fair, some foul, as foreordained 

To different home, of devils or angels. 

From South and East o'er Sion's top, 

In sudden radiance the sun shall flame 35 

From the throne of God; more gleaming-bright, 



CYNEWULF 49 

Than man may imagine, or mind conceive. 

Resplendent it shines, as the Son of God 

Dazzling breaks through the dome of heaven. 

Glorious appears the presence of Christ, 40 

The King as He comes through the clouds in the East, 

Merciful and mild in mind to his own, 

But with altered mood of anger toward the wicked: 

Unlike His looks for the lost and the blest. . . . (909) 

The greedy spirit of consuming flame (97 2 ) 45 

Shall leap o'er the land, and the lofty halls; 

With the terror of fire shall fill the world. 

The battle-thirsty flame shall blaze afar, 

Devouring the earth, and all therein. 

Strong-built walls shall split and crumble; 50 

Mountains shall melt, and the mighty cliffs 

That buttress the earth gainst battering waves, 

Bulwarks upreared 'gainst the rolling billows, 

Shall fall on a sudden. The sweep of the fire 

Shall leave no bird nor beast alive. 55 

The lurid flame shall leap along the world 

Like a raging warrior. Where the waters flowed 

In a bath of fire the fish shall be stifled; 

Sundered from life, their struggles over, 

The monsters of the deep no more shall swim. 60 

Like molten wax the water shall burn. 

More marvels shall appear than mind may conceive, 

When tempest and whirlwind o'erwhelm the earth, 

And rocks are riven by the roaring blast. 

Men shall wail, they shall weep and lament, 65 

Groan aghast with grovelling fear. 

The smoke-dark flame o'er the sinful shall roll, 

The blaze shall consume their beakers of gold, 

All the ancient heirlooms of kings. 

The shrieks of the living aloud shall resound 70 

Mid the crack of doom, their cry of fear, 



50 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Their howl of despair, as they struggle to hide. 

No guilty wretch shall refuge find, 

Not one shall escape the scorching flame; 

On all it shall seize, as it sweeps through the world. 75 

It shall leap and run and ruthlessly bore 

In the bowels of the earth, it shall burn aloft, 

Till the ancient stains of earthly sin 

By the purging billows are burnt away. 

THE VISION OF THE CROSS 

(Ascribed to Cynewulf) 

List to the words of a wondrous vision, 

Dream that I dreamt in the dead of night, 

When stilled in sleep were the sons of men! 

Methought on a sudden I saw a cross 

Upreared in the sky, and radiant with light. 5 

Brightest of trees, that beauteous beacon 

Was dipped in gold, and bedight with jewels: 

Four at the base, and five on the beam 

Glistened on high; 'twas no gallows-tree, 

Emblem of shame, but the souls of the blest 10 

Were gazing upon it, God's bright angels, 

The glorious creation, all kindreds of men. 

'Twas a tree of triumph, but troubled was I, 

Stained with sin, as I stood and gazed 

On the Cross of glory, aglow with light. 15 

Layers of gold, and glittering jewels 

Covered its bark, and buried the wood. 

Still through the gold that garnished its side, 

I was 'ware of wounds where once it had bled, 

Scars of a battle old. I was bowed with sorrow; 20 

But the vision filled me with fear when I saw 

That it changed its hue — now chased with gold, 

Now stained with blood and streaming wet! 



CYNEWULF 51 

Long I lay thus, looking in sadness 

At the Saviour's Cross, when sudden I heard it 25 

Making melody, marked it singing; 

Wondrous words the wood did utter: 

"Many years ago, 

— yet I remember it all — 
Fast by a forest-side, 

they felled me where I grew, 
Severed me from my stock; 30 

strong foes took and shaped me 
For a spectacle to men; 

made me bear their criminals, 
Bore me away on their backs, 

bade me stand on a hill-top; 
Band of fiends there fixed me. 

I saw the Friend of Man, 
Haste with mighty hardihood 

to mount on high and clasp me. 
I durst not bend nor falter, 35 

nor disobey my Lord; 
Though I marked how all the earth 

with mighty tremblings shook. 
The fiends I might have felled there, 

but firm I stood unshaken. 
Then stripped the mighty hero, 

in sooth 'twas God Almighty. 
He clomb the towering cross, 

with spirit keen and daring; 
Bold in sight of the rabble, 40 

when our race he would deliver. 
I trembled as he embraced me, 

yet bow to earth I durst not, 
Nor prostrate fall with fear. 

'Stand fast,' my Lord commanded; 
I stood, a cross uplifted! 

the King of glory I carried, 



52 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Upheld the Lord of heaven; 

my head I durst not bow. 
With gruesome nails they gored me, 45 

the gaping wounds are open; 
In bitter malice scarred me, 

strike back at the fiends I durst not. 
They mocked us both and beat us, 

with blood my sides were running, 
That flowed from the Saviour's body, 

when he bowed his head in death. 

Much I endured on that mount of woe, 

Throes and hate, for there I beheld 50 

The God of hosts, hanging outstretched. 

A pall of darkness dimmed his glory, 

Shrouded his body. The shadow rushed on, 

Black under clouds, all creatures wailed; 

Christ was on the Cross; their King was dead! 55 

Soon a band I beheld, 

hastening swiftly forward, 
Comrades seeking their Lord; 

(clearly I saw it all.) 
Stricken with grief profound, 

forward I stooped to help them, 
Eagerly bending low. 

They lifted Him down from the Cross, 
Released from his bitter agony; 60 

alone they left me there, 
Standing steeped in blood, 

wounded with shafts of malice. 
They folded His weary limbs, 

and watched at the head of his body; 
Looked intent on their Lord, 

the while He took His rest, 
Forspent with heavy toil. 



CYNEWULF 53 

Then full in sight of His slayers 
They hastened to hollow a grave, 65 

hewn from glistening marble; 
Buried the Lord of Victory, 

and chanted a lay of mourning, 
Sadly at eventide; 

then sorrowing took their leave; 
Went from the Lord of glory. 

There He rested alone. 

Long I stood, deserted by all; (70) 

At last they felled me, — fearful my fate; 70 

They dug a ditch, and deep they buried me. 

Erelong I was found by friends of my Lord, (76) 

Who straightway adorned me with silver and gold. 

Here mayest thou learn, my hero beloved, 

What woe I endured, what work of felons, 75 

What trials sore. Now the time is come 

That far and wide o'er the world I am honored. 

All kindreds of men, the mighty creation, 

Kneel to this sign. For the Son of God 

On me did suffer! This makes me glory! 80 

Sublime I am lifted aloft in the sky, 

With might to heal all men who adore me. 

Once I was set for a sign of woe, 

A mark of shame, ere I showed to men, 

Wandering lost, the way of life. 85 

God who is Lord of glory, exalted me 

High o'er the towering trees of the forest.". . . (91) 

With happy heart I hailed the cross, ( I22 ) 

And fervent zeal. No friend was near; 

Alone I knelt. I longed to depart; 90 

My soul was eager to start on her journey. 

Late I had lingered, my life's desire 

Was to come to the cross, the conqueror's beacon: 



54 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

More oft than other men, ever alone, 

To worship it worthily, wanting but this: 95 

To look on the cross whence cometh my help. 

Friends have I few to defend and comfort me; 

They have left the life and delight of the world; 

They have gone to greet the King of glory; 

They are folded in bliss with the Father on high; 100 

They live in the light of the Lord of angels; 

My heart beats high for the happy day 

When the cross of Christ shall come once more 

To fetch me away from this fleeting life, 

Bring me home to the bliss of heaven, 105 

Where the saints of God sit at the feast, 

Joined in raptures of joy eternal. U44] 

May he who suffered for the sins of men {145-156) 

On the cross of shame, show me the way, 

Guide me in grace to the goal of my hope, no 

That so I may join the saints in their joy, 

And dwell forever in realms of bliss. 



THE PHCENIX 

(Ascribed to Cynewulf) 

Lo I have heard of a happy land 
Far in the East, of a fair country, 
Happier fairer than earth-folk know. 
Far remote the mighty Creator 
Planted this realm, where few may reach it; 5 

Sinful mortals seek it in vain. 
Blest are those fields, abloom with the fragrance 
Of all sweet odors that earth exhales. 
Peerless the island, peerless her maker, 
Glorious the Lord who laid her foundations. 10 



CYNEWULF 55 

Her happy people hear glad singing, 

Oft through Heaven's open door. 

Green are her woodlands, green and ample, 

Under her rainless roof outspread. 

Winter's breath or blast of fire, 15 

Driving hail or hoar-frost dreary, 

Heat of sun or cold incessant, 

Scorching noons or sleeting north-winds 

Ne'er may harm this happy island. 

Blest it lies, abloom with flowers. 20 

Ever the same through the seasons' change. 

No mountain ramparts mar those regions; 

No rugged heights, as here with us; 

No hill-sides steep, or hollows deep; 

No crags or clefts, no caves or dens; 25 

But smoothest lawns and sunny levels 

Of joyful flowers face those skies. 

Fathoms twelve the fair land towers 

(So wise men have writ in records old) 

O'er the loftiest peak that lifts its head, 30 

Here among us, up to the skies. 

'Tis a region calm of sunny groves 

Woodlands glad, whose wondrous trees 

Stand fair and fresh in unfading hues, 

Goodly and green at God's behest. 35 

Ever the same, summer and winter, 

In living green those groves are clad, 

Laden with fruit. No leaf shall waste 

No branch be blackened with blast of lightning 

Till doomsday come. When the deluge swept 40 

With might of waters the world of men, 

And the flood o'erwhelmed the whole of earth, 

This isle withstood the storm of billows 

Serene and steadfast 'mid raging seas 

Spotless and pure by the power of God. 45 



56 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Thus blest it abides till the bale-fire come, 

The day of doom when death's dark chambers, 

Abodes of gloom, shall be broken asunder. 

No envious strife disturbs that isle; 

No tears or toil or trace of woe; 50 

Needy age, or narrow death; 

Foe's assault, or sudden end; 

No sin or sorrow, or sore distress; 

No grinding want, or wealth uncertain, 

No bitter care, or bed of pain; 55 

No wintry weather's wild encounter 

Of crashing storms, no cruel frost 

Beats any man there with icy showers. 

No sleet or snow assails that isle; 

No pelting rains pour from the clouds, 60 

Lashed by the gale; but living streams 

Wondrously gush from woodland springs, 

Lapping the earth with limpid ripples. 

Each month of the year in the midmost grove 

The winsome waters well sea-cold 65 

From the mossy turf; at the time appointed 

Wind through the wood in wandering streams. 

For God decreed that the joy of waters 

Should twelve times play through that land of plenty. 

Thick hangs the fruit in the forest-glades; 70 

The shining clusters never decay, 

The holy burden of the bending trees. 

No withered blooms are wafted down; 

No leaves are shed; but laden boughs 

Of bounteous ever-bearing trees 75 

Yield ever-fresh and fragrant fruit. 

Green are the groves on the grassy sward 

Decked and adorned by the deed of God, 

In beauty unwasting. Through the woodlands bright 

A holy fragrance floats and hovers. 80 

Changeless through ages the isle shall remain, 



CYNEWULF 57 

Till He who at first laid its foundations 
Shall end his wisdom's ancient work. 

A glorious bird guardeth this grove, 

Noble in flight, Phoenix by name. 85 

Alone in the land he liveth, a hermit; 

Proudly dwelleth, proof against death, 

In this wood of delight, while the world endures. 

'Tis said he watches the way of the sun, 

Eager to greet the candle of God, 90 

The gleaming gem, and joyously waits 

Till the Day-star come at dawn from the east, 

Shining bright o'er the billowy sea, 

First of lights by the Father created, 

Glorious sign of God. When the stars are gone, 95 

Dipped in the waves of the western sea, 

Or hid in the dawn, and dusky night 

Darkling departs, then poised for flight 

The strong-winged Phcenix scans the ocean, 

Sky and wave, and waits the time 100 

When the glorious light shall glide from the east 

And radiant rise o'er the rounding sea. 

So bides by the fountain the peerless bird, 

Haunting ever the hallowed streams. 

Twelve times bathes in the bubbling spring, 105 

Dipping his plumes ere day arrive, 

And the twinkle of dawn; so oft he tastes 

The waters that well sea-cold, and wets 

His bill at each bath in the bourne of delight. 

Then after his water-play wings him triumphant no 

Aloft to a tree-top towering high, 

Whence in the east he may easily see 

The road of the sun, when rising clear, 

The lamp of heaven shall glitter and gleam 

O'er the welter of waves. The world in brightened, 115 

In beauty glows, as the glorious gem 



58 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Flashes o'er ocean, inland afar, 

Lordly day-star lighting the earth. 

As soon as the sun o'er the salty streams 

On high doth soar, the haughty bird 120 

Joyfully leaves his lofty perch, 

Darting upward on dauntless wing 

And singing exultant, seeks the light. 

Glorious the greeting he giveth the sun, 

His spirit athrill with rapture of bliss; 125 

Warbling melodies wondrous sweet, 

With various art and voice more clear 

Than ever men heard the heavens beneath, 

Since the King of Glory, the great Creator, 

Established the world. More winsome far 130 

Than any music that men may make; 

And sweeter than any earthly strain, 

This trancing song. No sound of trump 

Or horn or harp; or harmonies clear 

Of organ-pipes; or purest tones 135 

Of mortal voice, or music of the swan, 

Or aught that God hath given to cheer 

Earth's heavy toil, may touch this song. 

He carols and sings in unceasing delight 

Till the sun descends in the southern sky; 140 

Then sinketh his song and silent falls. 

The beautiful bird then bows his head 

And listening alert lifteth his wings 

Beating them thrice, then bideth at rest. 

Ever he notes the turn of the hours 145 

Twelve times by day and twelve times by night. 

The lord of this grove hath leave to enjoy 

At his will the wealth of this wondrous isle, 

Life and delight in a land of plenty, 

Until he is worn with winters a thousand 150 

Of life upon earth, alone in the wood. 



CYNEWULF 59 

Then aged and wise with the weight of years 

Hovers on high the hoary-plumed Phoenix, 

Leaves the green island and flowering plains, 

Wingeth his flight to a wide-spreading realm, 155 

A lonely and uninhabited land. 

There he inherits a kingdom mighty; 

Bold o'er the bird-tribes beareth rule; 

Lives for a season, and lords it among them, 

Glorious grown, and guardeth the realm. 160 

But soon he departs on swiftest pinions, 

Westward winging his wondrous flight; 

Thick the bird-tribes throng round their leader, 

Each of them eager to aid their lord. 

At length he comes to the coast of Syria, 165 

With his countless host. Then harshly thrusting 

The throng away, he wheels him aside; 

Seeketh a dense wood's deepest shelter 

To hide from the crowd in the covert dark. 

Tall in the grove a great tree towers, 170 

Firmly rooted 'neath heaven's roof, 

Named from the bird, and known as the Phoenix. 

The Maker of man, the mighty Creator, 

Hath granted a glorious growth to this tree. 

I have heard that it passes in height by far 175 

The tallest tree that towers on earth; 

Its foliage fair shall flourish and thrive; 

Blight shall not touch it, its branches shall wave, 

Winsome and green while the world endures. 

When winds are laid and weather is calm, 180 

The lamp of heaven shines holy and pure; 

Clouds are scattered and skies are clear; 

The mighty surge of the sea is stilled; 

Storms are asleep and warm in the south 

Gleams the sun and gladdens the world. 185 

Then begins the bird to build in the branches, 



60 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

To furnish his nest for his hour of need, 

When his spirit's fervor shall urge him to change 

The years of his age, restoring his youth, 

And renewing his life. From near and far 190 

He gathers together the goodliest herbs; 

Blossoms and leaves he brings from the wood; 

Fills with fragrance his forest-abode; 

Culls each sweet that the King of glory, 

The Father, created o'er earth's wide realm, 195 

To charm and delight the children of men. 

So he collects the loveliest blossoms; 

Treasures bright he brings to the tree. 

Soon in the solitude's deep recess 

A winsome bower the wild bird builds him, 200 

A home in the tree-top; and houses him there, 

High aloft in the leafy shade; 

Surrounds himself with richest spices, 

Herbs the rarest that earth may yield; 

Makes for his body a bed of blossoms, 205 

Fain to depart. With folded pinions 

He watcheth on high and awaiteth his hour. 

When overhead the sun in summer 
Out of heaven hottest shines, 

The scathing heat scorches his house; 210 

The blossoms are warmed; the bower smokes 
With incense sweet, and bursts into flame; 
Bird and nest are burned together: 
The blaze is kindled, the bale-fire wraps 
In roaring flames his wretched abode, 215 

And fiercely feeds on the Phoenix hoar, 
Ancient of years. His aged body 
Is prey to the flames: his fleeting spirit, 
Hastes to its doom, when the hot blast sunders 
Flesh from bone. Yet the breath of life 220 

In the fulness of time returneth again. 
Soon as the flickering flame subsides, 



CYNEWULF 6 1 

The ashes are knit and kneaded together: 

When the beautiful nest is burnt to a cinder, 

And body and bones of the bird are crumbled, 225 

In the waning glow of the whitening embers 

A ball is found, in the bed of ashes 

Rolled together, round like an apple; 

Out of it comes a curious creature, 

Wondrous in hue, as though it were hatched, 230 

Shining bright, from the shell of an egg. 

It grows in the shade to the shape of an eaglet, 

A nestling fair, then further increases, 

Lustily thriving, larger still, 

Equalling soon an eagle in size. 235 

At length he is fledged with feathers gay, 

Bright as of old with beauteous plumes, 

His body renewed by the birth of fire, 

Taint of sin all taken away. 

Like as when men in the month of harvest 240 

Gather for food the fruits of the earth; 

Garner their crops 'gainst coming of winter; 

Shelter and shield them from showers and storms, 

Laying in stores and living in plenty, 

While roaring winter rages amain, 245 

And covers the fields with coat of snow: 

Out of those winter-stores, wealth abounding 

Shall come through the germ of life in the corn, 

Cleanly sown as a seed in the spring. 

When the sun returns, the token of life, 250 

And his warm rays waken the wealth of the world, 

Sprouteth afresh each fruit of the earth, 

Each in its own kind quickened and kindled 

To brighten the field. So the Phoenix old 

After many years his youth renews; 255 

Is girt again with a garment of flesh. 

Earthly food he refuses to touch, 

Save that he drinks drops of honey-dew 



62 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

That often fall at midnight hour; 

Tasting nought else until he revisit 260 

His own abode and ancient home. {264) 

A man of God, with mind prophetic, (57°) 

Sang of old, a song inspired; 

Foretold his rising to life eternal. 

That we more readily might read the meaning 265 

Of the fate of the Phoenix, — his fiery death: 

When he brings away his body's remnant; 

Gathers the ashes and embers together, 

Clasped in his claws, and carries them off, 

Flying sunward, when the flame subsides, 270 

To the courts of the Lord, where he lives secure 

Through countless years, all young again. 

No foe infests that fair domain; 

No hardship there can harm him further. 

Thus body and soul, by the Saviour's might 275 

Joined after death, shall journey together 

To the land of delight, laden with savor 

Of incense sweet, like the soaring Phoenix, 

Where high o'er the hosts, in the city of glory, 

The Sun of Righteousness radiant streams. 280 

When the Saviour Christ on the souls of the Blest 

Shines from on high, toward heaven's gate 

They mount, like beautiful birds to meet him; 

Glad is the song and glorious the shape 

Of the spirits-elect in that land of joy, 285 

Where envy and malice no more shall touch them: 

For ever and ever from evil free, 

They live in peace, apparelled in light, 

Girt with glory, by God defended, 

Like the Phoenix wondrous. The works of each, 2 go 

Sun-like gleam and glow in splendor, 

Bright before the face of the Lord, 



CNYEWULF 63 

In clear abodes of blessed calm. 

The crown of glory glittering bright, 

Studded round with rarest jewels, 295 

Decks the brow of each blessed saint. 

The radiance floods their foreheads shining; 

God's diadem adorns the righteous 

With jewelled light. They live in joy 

Endless, immortal, and ever renewed, 300 

In bliss secure and clothed in beauty; 

At home with the Father of angels in heaven. 

No sorrow haunts those happy mansions; 

No danger, dread, nor days of toil; 

No parching thirst, nor pangs of hunger; 305 

No need, nor age; the noble King 

Dispenseth bounty; the spirit-host 

Praise their Reedemer, the Prince of Heaven; 

Honor and magnify the might of the Lord; 

Shouting glad, that glorious company 310 

Surround on high God's holy throne; 

Saints and angels sing triumphant, 

Worshipping God with one accord: 

"Peace be to Thee true God! Power and Wisdom! 

Thanks to Thee evermore, throned in majesty, 315 

For the gifts Thy grace doth grant us anew, 

Boundless in might, dominion and glory, 

High and holy! The heavens above, 

Abode of the angels, and the earth also, 

Father Almighty, are full of thy majesty; 320 

Thou Glory of Glories, and greatest of kings! 

Defend us Creator, Thou Father Almighty, 

And Ruler of Heaven, who reignest on high." 

Thus hymn aloud the host of the righteous, 

Cleansed from guilt, in the glorious city; 325 

Publish the praise of the Prince of Heaven; 

The choir of saints keep singing on high: 

"To Him alone belongeth all honor 



64 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Thanksgiving and worship, world without end! 

Never His glory hath known a beginning, 330 

Though He chose to be born a child upon earth, 

Here among men, yet the might of His power 

High o'er the Heavens in Holiness dwelt 

In glory undimmed. Though death's sharp pang 

He bore on the cross, and bitter woe, 335 

The third day after the throes of his passion 

Laid low his body, He was brought to life 

By the Father's grace. So the Phcenix stands 

For a sign of the power of the Son of God, 

When he wakes to the life of life from his ashes, 340 

Girt with limbs in the glory of youth. 

Thus by the sundring of soul and body, 

To life everlasting our Lord did help us, 

Even as the Phcenix, eager for flight, 

Loadeth his wings with winsome herbs, 345 

And sweetest blossoms that bloom upon earth."' 

Such is the burden, as scriptures tell us, 

The songs of the saints whose souls have departed 

On the heavenward journey, to the joy of joys 

And the God of grace. For a gift to the Lord 350 

They bring a sweet-smelling savor on high 

Of words and works, in that world of bliss 

And radiant life. Render to Him 

Praise and Honor, Power and Glory; 

Worship and Wisdom, World without end, 355 

In heaven above. He only is King 

Of earth's wide round, and the realms of light, 

With splendor girt in that glorious city. 

Leave hath granted us lucis auctor, 

That here we might merueri; 360 

By good deeds gain gaudia in celo; 

That so we men maxima regna 

Might reach, and sit sedibus altis; 



SECULAR LYRIC AND ELEGY 65 

Live in delight lucis et pads; 

Enter our home almce letitice; 365 

In bliss immortal, blandem et mitetn 

See our Saviour sine fine; 

Prolong his praises laude perenne, 

In bliss with the Angels. Alleluia. 



V. SECULAR LYRIC AND ELEGY 

THE WANDERER 

Many a lonely man at last comes to honor 

Merits God's mercy, though much he endured 

On wintry seas, with woe in his heart, 

Dragging his oar through drenching-cold brine, 

Homeless and houseless and hunted by Wyrd. 5 

These are the words of a way-faring wanderer, 
This is his song of the sorrow of life, 
Slaughter of foemen, felling of kinsmen: 

Often alone in the dark before dawning, 

All to myself my sorrow I tell. 10 

Friend have I none to whom I may open 

My heart's deep secret, my hidden spring of woe. 

Well do I know 'tis the way of the high-born, 

Fast in his heart to fetter his feelings, 

Lock his unhappiness in the hold of his mind. 15 

Spirit that sorrows withstandeth not destiny, 

Heart that complaineth plucketh no help. 

A haughty hero will hide his suffering, 

Manfully master misery's pang. 

Thus stricken with sorrow, stript of my heritage, 20 

Far from kinsmen and country and friends, 



66 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Grimly I grappled my grief to my bosom, 

Since long time ago, my giver of bounty 

Was laid in the earth, and left me to roam 

Watery wastes, with winter in my heart. 25 

Forsaken I sought a shielder and protector; 

Far and near I found none to greet the wanderer, 

No master to make him welcome in his wine-hall; 

None to cheer the cheerless, or the friendless to befriend. 

He who has lost all his loved companions, 30 

Knoweth how bitter a bedfellow is sorrow. 

Loneliness his lot, not lordly gold, 

Heart-chilling frost, not harvest of plenty. 

Oft he remembers the mirth of the mead-hall, 

Yearns for the days of his youth, when his dear lord 35 

Filled him with abundance. Faded are those joys! 

He shall know them no more; no more shall he listen 

To the voice of his lord, his leader and counsellor. 

Sometimes sleep and sorrow together 

Gently enfold the joyless wanderer: 40 

Bright are his dreams, he embraces his lord again, 

Kisses his liege, and lays on his knee 

Head and hands as in happy days, 

When he thanked for a boon his bountiful giver. 

Wakes with a start the homeless wanderer; 45 

Nought he beholds but the heaving surges, 

Seagulls dipping and spreading their wings, 

Scurries of snow and the scudding hail. 

Then his heart is all the heavier, 

Sore after sweet dreams sorrow reviveth. 50 

Fain would he hold the forms of his kinsmen, 

Longingly leans to them, lovingly greets them; 

Slowly their faces swim into distance; 

No familiar greeting comes from the fleeting 

Companies of kinsmen. Care ever shadows 55 



SECULAR LYRIC AND ELEGY 67 

The way of the traveller, whose track is on the waters, 
Whose path is on the billows of the boundless deep. 

Surely I see not how I should keep 

My heart from sinking, heavy with sorrow, 

When all life's destiny deeply I ponder, — 60 

Men that are suddenly snatched in their prime, 

High-souled heroes; so the whole of this earth 

Day by day droopeth and sinketh to decay. . . (63) 

How dread is the doom of the last desolation, (/j) 

W T hen all the wealth of the world shall be waste, 65 

He that is wise may learn, if he looks 

Abroad o'er this land, where lonely and ruinous, 

Wind-swept walls, waste are standing; 

Tottering towers, crusted with frost, 

Crumbling wine-halls, bare to the sky. 70 

Dead is their revelry, dust are the revellers! 

Some they have fallen on far fields of battle, 

Some have gone down in ships on the sea; 

Some were the prey of the prowling gray-wolf, 

Some were buried by sorrowing comrades. 75 

The Lord of the living hath levelled their mansions, 

Silenced the sound of the singing and laughter. 

Empty and bare are all their habitations, 

Wondrous works of the giants of old. 

He that considers this scene of desolation, 50 

And this dark life deeply doth ponder, — 
Battle and blood-shed, burning and slaughter, 
It bringeth to mind, and mournfully he asks: 
Where is the warrior, where is the war-horse? 
Where is the giver of bounty, where are the boon- 
companions, 85 
The "dream and the gleam" that gladdened the hall? 
Alas the bright ale-cup, alas the brave warrior! 
Alas the pride of princes! Their prime is no more; 



68 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Sunk under night's shadow, as though it never had been! 

Where lusty warriors thronged, this lone wall towers, 90 

Weird with dragon-shapes, wondrously carven; 

Storm of ash-spears hath stricken the heroes, 

Blood-thirsty weapons, Wyrd the supreme. 

Wintry blasts buffet these battlements 

Dreary snow-storms drift up the earth 95 

The terror of winter when wild and wan 

Down from the north with the darkness drives 

The ruinous scourge of the ruthless hail. 

All this life is labor and sorrow, 

Doom of destiny darkens o'er earth. 100 

Wealth is fleeting, friends are fleeting, 

Man is fleeting, maid is fleeting, 

All this earth's foundations utterly shall pass, (no) 



THE SEAFARER 

The poem translated below, has been interpreted as a dialogue 
between a weather-beaten old sailor and a youth eager to go to 
sea. The parts are not assigned in the original MS., and the 
only warrant for our dialogue form lies in the structure of the 
poem itself. 

The Old Sailor: 

True is the tale that I tell of my cravels, 

Sing of my sea-faring sorrows and woes; 

Hunger and hardship's heaviest burdens, 

Tempest and terrible toil of the deep, 

Daily I've borne on the deck of my boat. 5 

Fearful the welter of waves that encompassed me, 

Watching at night on the narrow bow, 

As she drove by the rocks, and drenched me with spray. 

Fast to the deck mv feet were frozen, 



SECULAR LYRIC AND ELEGY 69 

Gripped by the cold, while care's hot surges 10 

My heart o'erwhelmed, and hunger's pangs 
Sapped the strength of my sea- weary spirit. 

Little he knows whose lot is happy, 

Who lives at ease in the lap of the earth, 

How, sick at heart, o'er icy seas, 15 

Wretched I ranged the winter through, 

Bare of joys, and banished from friends, 

Hung with icicles, stung by hail-stones. 

Nought I heard but the hollow boom 

Of wintry waves, or the wild swan's whoop. 20 

For singing I had the solan's scream; 

For peals of laughter, the yelp of the seal; 

The sea-mew's cry, for the mirth of the mead-hall. 

Shrill through the roar of the shrieking gale 

Lashing along the sea-cliff's edge, 25 

Pierces the ice-plumed petrel's defiance, 

And the wet-winged eagle's answering scream, 

Little he dreams that drinks life's pleasure 

By danger untouched in the shelter of towns 

Insolent and wine-proud how utterly weary 30 

Oft I wintered on open seas. 

Night fell black from the north it snowed 

Harvest of hail. 

The Youth: 

Oh wildly my heart 
Beats in my bosom and bids me to try 35 

The tumble and surge of seas tumultuous, 
Breeze and brine and the breakers' roar. 
Daily hourly drives me my spirit 
Outward to sail, far countries to see. 
Liveth no man so large in his soul, 40 

So gracious in giving, so gay in his youth, 



70 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

In deeds so daring, so dear to his lord, 

But frets his soul for his sea-adventure, 

Fain to try what fortune shall send. 

Harping he heeds not, nor hoarding of treasure; 45 

Nor woman can win him, nor joys of the world. 

Nothing doth please but the plunging billows; 

Ever he longs, who is lured by the sea. 

Woods are abloom, the wide world awakens, 

Gay are the mansions, the meadows most fair; . 50 

These are but warnings, that haste on his journey 

Him whose heart is hungry to taste 

The perils and pleasures of the pathless deep. 

The Old Sailor: 

Hearest the cuckoo mournfully calling? 

The summer's watchman sorrow forbodes. 55 

What does the landsman that wantons in luxury, 

What does he reck of the rough sea's woe, 

The cares of the exile, whose keel has explored 

The uttermost parts of the Ocean-ways! 

The Youth: 

Sudden my soul starts from her prison-house, 60 

Soareth afar o'er the sounding main; 

Hovers on high, o'er the home of the whale; 

Back to me darts the bird-sprite and beckons, 

Winging her way o'er woodland and plain, 

Hungry to roam, and bring me where glisten 65 

Glorious tracts of glimmering foam. 

This life on land is lingering death to me 

Give me the gladness of God's great sea. [66] 



SECULAR LYRIC AND ELEGY 7 1 



THE HUSBAND'S MESSAGE 



An exile from his country sends to his wife overseas a message, 
bidding her join him in his new home where he has prospered. 
The letters are cut on a tablet of wood, and the wood itself is sup- 
posed to speak. Compare the Vision of the Cross, and the Riddles 
for this kind of dramatic personification. 

See I bring thee a secret message! 

A sapling once in the woods I grew; 

I was cut for a stave and covered with writing; 

Skilled men cunningly carved upon me 

Letters fair, in a faraway land. 5 

Since have I crossed the salt-streams often, 

Carried in ships to countries strange; 

Sent by my lord, his speech to deliver 

In many a towering mead-hall high. 

Hither I've sped, the swift keel brought me, 10 

Trial to make of thy trust in my master; 

Look thou shalt find him loyal and true. 

He told me to come, that carved this letter, 

And bid thee recall, in thy costly array, 

The pledges ye plighted, the promises true 15 

Ye gave to each other in days of old, 

When still in the land ye lived together, 

Happily mated, and held in the mead-halls 

Your home and abode. A bitter feud 

Banished him far. He bids me call thee, 20 

Earnestly urge thee overseas. 

When thou hast heard, from the brow of the hill, 

The mournful cuckoo call in the wood, 

Let no man living delay thy departure, 

Hinder thy going, or hold thee at home. 25 

Away to the sea, where the gulls are circling! 



72 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Board me a ship that's bound from the shore- 
Sail away South, to seek thy own husband! 
Over the water he waits for thee. 

No keener joy could come to his heart, 30 

No greater happiness gladden his soul, 

Than if God who wieldeth the world, should grant 

That ye together should yet give rings, 

Treasure of gold to trusty liegemen. 

A home he hath found in a foreign land, 35 

Fair abode and followers true, 

Hardy heroes, though hence he was driven; 

Shoved his boat from the shore in distress, 

Steered for the open, sped o'er the ocean, 

Weary wave-tossed wanderer he. 40 

Past are his woes, he has won through his perils, 

He lives in plenty, no pleasure he lacks; 

Nor horses nor goods nor gold of the mead-hall; 

All the wealth of earls upon earth 

Belongs to my lord he lacks but thee. 45 



VI. RIDDLES AND GNOMIC VERSE 

THE BOOK-WORM 

A moth ate a word! To me that seemed 

A strange thing to happen, when I heard that 

wonder, — 
A worm that would swallow the speech of a man, 
Sayings of strength steal in the dark, 
Thoughts of the mighty; yet the thieving sprite 
Was none the wiser for the words he had eaten! 



RIDDLES AND GNOMIC VERSE 73 



GNATS 

There's a troop of tiny folk travelling swift, 
Brought by the breeze o'er the brink of the hill, 
Buzzing black-coated bold little people, — 
Noisy musicians; well-known is their song. 
They scour the thickets, but sometimes invade 
The rooms of the town. Now tell me their names. 

THE SHIELD 

Wounded I am, and weary with fighting; 
Gashed by the iron, gored by thepoint of it, 
Sick of battle-work, battered and scarred. 
Many a fearful fight have I seen, when 
Hope there was none, or help in the thick of it, 
Ere I was down and foredone in the fray. 
Offspring of hammers, hardest of battle-blades, 
Smithied in forges, fell on me savagely, 
Doomed to bear the brunt and the shock of it, 
Fierce encounter of clashing foes. 
Leech cannot heal my hurts with his simples, 
Salves for my sores have I sought in vain. 
Blade-cuts dolorous, deep in the side of me, 
Daily and nightly redouble my wounds. 

BARNACLE ON THE HULL OF A SAILING- 
VESSEL 

(or Barnacle-Goose) 

I'm found under water held fast by my mouth, 
Swirl of the sea-tides goes sweeping beneath me. 
Fathom-deep sunk under surges I grew. 
Bending roof of billows above me: 



74 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

My body adrift on a floating beam. 5 

You'll find me alive if you lift me and free me. 
Dull is my coat as I come from the deep, 
But straight I am decked with streamers of white, 
Bright when the freshening breeze brings me from 

underseas 
Heaves me up and urges me far 10 

O 'er the seal-bath salty. Say what I'm called. 

HONEY-MEAD 

I'm prized by men, in the meadows I'm found, 

Gathered on hill-sides and hunted in groves; 

From dale and from down by day I am brought. 

Airy wings carry me, cunningly store me, 

Hoarding me safe. Yet soon men take me; 5 

Drained into vats, I'm dangerous grown. 

I tie up my victim, and trip him, and throw him; 

Often I floor a foolish old churl. 

Who wrestles with me, and rashly would measure 

His strength against mine, will straightway find himself 

Flung to the ground, flat on his back, 1 1 

Unless he leave his folly in time, 

Put from his senses and power of speech, 

Robbed of his might, bereft of his mind, 

Of his hands and feet. Now find me my name, 15 

Who can bind and enslave men so upon earth, 

And bring fools low in broad daylight. 

THE ANCHOR 

I war with the wind, with the waves I wrestle; 

I must battle with both when the bottom I seek, 

My strange habitation by surges o'er-roofed. 

I am strong in the strife, while still I remain; 

As soon as I stir, they are stronger than I. 5 



RIDDLES AND GNOMIC VERSE 75 

They wrench and they wrest, till I run from my foes; 

What was put in my keeping they carry away. 

If my back be not broken, I baffle them still; 

The rocks are my helpers, when hard I am pressed; 

Grimly I grip them. Guess what I'm called. 10 

THE PLOUGH 

My beak is below, I burrow and nose 

Under the ground. I go as I'm guided 

By my master the farmer, old foe of the forest; 

Bent and bowed, at my back he walks, 

Forward pushing me over the field; 5 

Sows on my path where I've passed along. 

I came from the wood, a wagon carried me; 

I was fitted with skill, I am full of wonders. 

As grubbing I go, there's green one side, 

But black on the other my track is seen. 10 

A curious prong pierces my back 

Under me hangs another in front, 

And forward pointing is fixed to my head. 

I tear and gash the ground with my teeth 

If my master steer me with skill from behind. 15 

GNOMIC VERSES 

(From the Cotton MS.) 

The king shall rule his kingdom; castles are seen from afar, 
Reared by. giants they rise in the land, 
Wondrous walls of masonry. Wind is swiftest aloft; 
Far is the thunder heard. Fair are the glories of Christ. 
Wyrd is strongest, Winter is coldest, 5 

Lent is hoariest, 'tis latest cold. 
Harvest is merriest, to men it brings 
Fruits of the year, furnished by God, 



76 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Truth is plainest. Treasure is dearest, 

Gold to the children of men. Gray hairs are wisest: 10 

Who longest hath lived hath learned the most. 

Troubles shall cleave. Clouds shall dissolve. 

Comrades good shall encourage an aetheling 

To be brave in the fight, and free of his gold. 

Earls shall be daring. Iron shall ring 15 

Against helmet in battle. Hooded, the falcon 

Shall keep his wildness. Wolf in the forest 

Shall outlaw be. Boar in the thicket 

Shall tear with his tusks. Trusty earl 

To praise shall aspire. Spear for the hand, 20 

Gold-adorned javelin. Jewel in ring 

Shall richly be set. River with sea 

Shall mingle its stream. Mast in the ship, 

Sail on the yard, sword in the breast 

Iron that is doughty. Dragon in the cave 25 

Fierce o'er his treasure. Fish in the water 

Shall spawn its kind. King in the hall 

Shall bracelets bestow. Bear on the heath 

Surly shall roam. Stream from the hill-side 

Gray shall gush. Together shall stand 30 

Troops of comrades. Truth in an earl, 

In councillors wisdom. The woods shall bloom 

With brightest hues; hills shall stand 

Green on the earth. God is in heaven, 

To judge our deeds. Door for the hall, 35 

The building's mouth. Boss for the shield, 

Fingers to fend. Fowls in the air 

Shall sport and play. Salmon in the pool 

Shall dart and shoot. Showers from the skies 

Windy and wet on the world shall fall. 40 

Thief shall stalk in the dark. Giant shall dwell on the fen, 

Alone on the moorland. Maid shall in secret 

Go to her friend, if she fail to be bought 

With gold before her folk. The flood shall be salt, 



RIDDLES AND GNOMIC VERSE 77 

Waves of the ocean that wash the land, 45 

And break on the shores. The beast of the field 

Shall breed and bring forth. Bright in the heavens 

Stars shall glitter, as God hath bid them. 

Good against evil; youth against age; 

Light against dark; life against death; 50 

Host against host shall harry the land, 

Foe against foe with feud shall come, 

Stirring up strife. The sage shall ponder 

This warring world. The "wolf" shall hang, 

Pay for the wrong he wrought upon earth, 55 

His guilt among men; God alone knows 

The place that his soul shall seek hereafter, 

Bourne of the spirits that speed to their Maker, 

When the stroke of death hath sent them to God, 

Where they wait for their doom. Dark is the future, 60 

Dark and hidden! He alone knows 

Our Helper in need; for none comes hither, 

Revisits his home to reveal to men 

What manner of mansions the Almighty inhabits, 

What seats of glory are God's abode. 65 

(From the Exeter Book) 

As the sea is smooth when storms are at rest, (55-56) 

So people are quiet when peace is proclaimed. 

Ship shall be nailed, shield shall be bound (94) 

Lindenwood decked. Dear to the Frisian wife, 

And welcome the sailor that stands at the door. 5 

Home is her husband, his boat's in the harbor; 
She bids him in, her own provider; 
She washes his weedy coat; she gets him garments fresh. 
'Tis dear on the land where a loved one is waiting. 
Wife shall be true to the man she hath wedded. 10 

Faithful are many, but many are froward, 



78 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

They will love a stranger when their lord is away. 

Long doth the seaman stay on his voyage, 

Weary the wife that waits her dear one 

Though bitter her lot, she bideth her hour; 15 

Safe again home she shall see her husband 

Unless he is lying, lost and sunken, 

Locked in the arms of the ocean vast. (107) 

Hapless outlaws shall house with the wolves; (147) 
The treacherous beasts oft tear their comrade. 20 

When the gray-wolf kills, there are graves to be filled, 
His howls are heard as hungry he roams, 
Prowling for prey; no pity in his wail 
For men he has murdered; he is greedy for more. 

Prudent counsels are becoming to men (166) 25 

To the gleeman his song, to the sage his wisdom. 

As many men, so many minds: 

Separate thanes have separate thoughts. 

He longeth the least that hath store of lays 

Or with hands of skill can strike the harp, 30 

On whom God hath bestowed the gift of song. 

Wretched who lives alone in the world 

Doomed by fate to dwell without friends 

'Twere better he had a brother in his house, 

Both men sons of the self-same father. {176) 35 

There's sport on the ship when she runs under sail (186) 
'Tis weary work against wind to row. 
They call him a coward and craven shirk, 
Whose oar is aboard with blade unwetted. 



RIDDLES AND GNOMIC VERSE 79 

THE FATES OF MEN 

(From the Exeter Book) 

Full oft by the grace of God it happens 

To man and woman in wedlock joined, 

A child is born. They cherish it fondly, 

Tend and teach it, till the time is come, 

When the little one's limbs, in the lapse of years, 5 

Have sturdy grown, and gained their strength. 

So father and mother fondly rear it, 

Nourish and guard it. But God alone 4oiows 

The gift of the years to the growing child. 

Sudden death is the doom of one, 10 

Snatched away in the spring of his youth 

By a violent end, devoured by wolves 

That range the heath: Her unhappy child 

The mother bemoans, but man may not change it. 

One shall famine slay; another the flood sweep away '.15 

One shall the battle break; another the bolt o'ertake! 

One shall in darkness drear drag out his life, 

Groping to feel where his foot may stand. 

Stricken with palsy in sinew and limb, 

Another shall grieve and groan at his fate. 20 

One shall fall from a forest tree: 

Fearful he wheels in wingless flight, 

Spins through the air and swoops to the ground; 

From the crown of the trunk he crashes to earth, 

Stunned and senseless, all still he lies 25 

On the straggling roots, his soul is fled! 

One shall wander, weary and foot-sore, 
Far through the world, famished and needy, 
Trudging at dawn along dewy trails, 



80 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

In a land unloved and an alien soil. 

Few are alive to befriend the wanderer, 30 

Ever unwelcome his eyes of woe. 

High on the gallows shall hang another, 

Dangle and strangle till he stiffen in death. 

Bloody-beaked birds on his body shall prey; 

The plundering raven shall pluck out his eyes, 35 

Tear and claw the carcass to shreds. 

Helpless he hangs, — his hands avail not 

To ward off the scavengers that swoop through the air. 

Hope-of-life has left that livid corpse; 

Senseless and motionless he suffers his Wyrd, 40 

Drowned' in the death-mist: doom of the criminal. 

One shall be burnt in the weltering blaze; 

The flames shall devour their fated victim, 

Swift and sudden his sundering from life 

In the lurid glow. Loud wails the mother, 45 

As she watches the flames enfolding her darling. 

One shall be slain as he sits on the mead-bench, 

Ale-brawl ended by edge of the sword: 

The drunkard's folly, — too forward his tongue! (50) 

So the Lord Almighty allots unto men (64) 50 

Manifold fortunes o'er the face of the earth; 
Dealeth their dole, their destiny holds. 
To some he gives wealth, to some he gives woe. 
Gladness of youth to some, to others glory in battle, 
Strength in the war-play with spear and with bow- 
string, 55 
Fame and honor; to others he gives 
Skill in the game of the checkered board. 
Some become learned in lore of books. 
Some have the gift of working in gold: 
Of beaten metal they make bright ornaments, 60 
And get broad lands from their lord in return, 



HISTORIC WAR-POEMS 8 1 

Receive them with joy from the generous king.' 

One shall wait upon wassailing comrades, 

Gladden the hearts of heroes carousing, 

Large is their joy as they laugh at the revels. 65 

One shall be found at the feet of his lord; 

With his harp he shall win a harvest of wealth; 

Quickly he tightens the twangling strings, 

They ring and they swing as his spur-shod finger 

Dances across them: deftly he plays. 70 

Another shall tame the towering falcon, 

Hawk in hand, till the haughty flier 

Grows meek and gentle; he makes him jesses, 

Feeds in fetters the feather-proud bird, 

With dainty morsels, the dauntless soarer, 75 

Until the wild one is weakened and humbled, 

Belled and tasselled, obeys his master 

Hooded and tamed and trained to his hand. 

So marvelously God in his might bestows 

Skill upon men in many lands, 80 

Shaping their lives, and allotting their fortunes 

To dwellers on earth of every kin. 

Let each man render Him honor and praise 

For the gifts His grace hath granted to mortals. 



VII. HISTORIC WAR-POEMS 

THE BATTLE OF BRUNNANBURG 

(From the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 937 A. D.) 

iEthelstan Lord, and leader of earls, 
Gold-friend of heroes, he with his brother 
Edmund iEtheling, agelong glory 
Won in war with weapons keen 



FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

By Brunnanburg. They broke the shield- wall; 5 

With offspring of hammers they hewed the lindenwoods, 

Heirs of Edward. Oft had they driven 

The foe from the land, and foiled the invader, 

True to their blood in battle defending 

Their hoard and their home. Huge was the slaughter 10 

They made of the boat-crews and bands of the Scotsmen . 

Doomed men fell. The field was drenched; 

Ran with the blood of the bravest fighters 

From rise of the sun, when the radiant day-star, 

Bright candle af God, came in the morning-tide 15 

Gliding o'er earth, till the glorious creature 

Sank to its setting. The slain lay thick; 

Maimed by the spear lay many a Northman, 

Shot over shield; shattered and war-spent, 

Many a Scot. But the men of Wessex 20 

Drove all day the Dane-folk before them; 

Hung on the trail of the troop that they hated; 

Hewed from behind the host of the pirates, 

With weapons new-whetted. Not one of the rovers 

Who came with Anlaf across the water 25 

Aboard his war-ship, bound for our shores, 

Fated to fall, found that the Mercian 

Refused him hand-play. Five young chieftains 

Lay stretched on the field. Seven great earls 

Of Anlaf were killed, and countless others 30 

Of boatmen and Scotsmen. Barely escaped 

The Northern leader. Leaving in haste, 

With a handful of men, he made for his ship. 

They cleared the craft, the king put out 

On the fallow flood. He fled for his life. 35 

Also the cunning Constantinus 

Home again stole to his haunts in the north. 

Little ground had the gray old leader 

To brag and to boast of the battle-encounter. 

Stripped of his clansmen killed in the slaughter. 40 



HISTORIC WAR-POEMS 83 

Alone he returned, his own son dead, 

Left on the battle-field, bloody and mangled, 

Brave young warrior. No bragging for him, 

Grisly old traitor, of glorious sword-play; 

Little for him or Anlaf to laugh about, 45 

In midst of the wreck of their mighty array. 

No boasting for them that they had the better 

In the crashing of helmets, the heat of the conflict; 

The splintering of spears, the struggle of heroes; 

The grinding of weapons, the game of war 50 

They chose to play with the children of Edward. 

So parted the Northmen on their nail-studded ships, 

Blood-reddened wreck and remnant of lances; . 

Sailed o'er the deep again, Dublin to seek, 

And the shores of Ireland, shamed and defeated. 55 

Back to their Wessex home, went the two brothers; 

King and ^Etheling, came to their own again; 

Victors in triumph returned from the war. 

Leaving behind, the horr -billed raven 

The gloomy-coated, to glut c 1 the carcasses; 60 

Leaving behind, the white -tailed eagle 

Perched on the corpses to ra*ey on the carrion; 

Leaving behind, the haggled kite, 

And the gray-wolf gaunt to gorge on the slain. 

Never was made a mightier slaughter; 65 

Never sword reaped a ruddier harvest 
Of high-born heroes, here in this island, 
Since hither of old, Angles and Saxons, 
— So say the chronicles, — sailed from the Eastward, 
Crossed o'er the billows, to conquer the Britons; 70 

When haughty battle-smiths hammered the Welshmen 
And Honor-keen earls entered this realm. 



84 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

THE BATTLE OF MALDON 

(991 A. D.) 

The beginning of the poem is lost. The first sixteen lines of 
the remaining portion describe how Byrhtnot's men, arrived at 
the battle field, dismount and turn their horses loose, how one of 
them sends his hawk flying to the wood, and how the East Saxon 
alderman proceeds to marshal his band on the banks of the 
stream. The poem continues as follows: 

Byrhtnoth encouraged his comrades heartily; [//] 
Rode through the ranks and roused their spirits; 
Marshalled his men to meet the onset; 
Showed them how they should hold their shields 
Firm in their grip, and fearless stand. 5 

When he had briskly whetted their courage, 
He leaped from his steed and stood with his people, 
His hearth-band beloved and house-hold thanes. 

Then strode to the strand a stalwart Northman, 

The viking herald. They heard him shout; 10 

Send o'er the tide the taunt of the pirates; 

Hailing the earl, he hurled this challenge: 

"Bold sea-rovers bade me tell thee 

Straightway thou must send them tribute, 

Rings for ransome, royal treasure; 15 

Better with gifts ye buy us off, 

Ere we deal hard blows and death in battle. 

Why spill we blood when the bargain is easy ? 

Give us the pay and we grant ye peace. 

If thou dost agree, who art greatest here, 20 

To ransom thy folk with the fee we demand, 

And give to the seamen the gold they ask, 

Pay with tribute for treaty of peace, 



HISTORIC WAR-POEMS 85 

We load the booty aboard our ships, 

Haul to sea and hold the truce." 25 

Byrhtnoth spake, he brandished his spear, 

Lifted his shield and shouted aloud, 

Grim was his wrath as he gave them his answer: 

"Hearest thou pirate my people's reply? 

Ancient swords they will send for ransom; 30 

Poison-tipped points they will pay for tribute; 

Treasure that scarce will serve you in battle. 

Go back pirate, give them my answer; 

Bring them this word of bitter defiance; 

Tell them here standeth, dauntless and stern, 35 

The earl with his folk, to defend his country; 

^Ethelred's realm, the rights of my lord, 

His house and his home; the heathen shall fall, 

Pirates and robbers. My people were shamed 

If ye loaded our booty aboard your ships, 40 

And floated them off unfought, to sea, 

Having sailed so far, to set foot on our soil. 

Not all so easily earn ye our gold! 

Sword-blades and spear-points we sell you first; 

Battle-play grim, ere ye get our tribute!" 45 

Forward he told his troop to come, 

To step under shield and stand by the shore. 

The breadth of the stream kept the bands asunder; 

Strong came flowing the flood after ebb, 

Filled the channel, and foamed between them. 50 

Impatient stood by Panta stream, 

East-Saxon host and horde of the pirates, 

Longing to lock their lances in battle. 

Neither could harass or harm the other, 

Save that some fell by the flight of arrows. 55 

Down went the tide, the Danes were ready; 
Burned for the battle the band of the Vikings; 



86 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

On the bridge stood Wulfstan and barred their way. 

Byrhtnoth sent him, a seasoned warrior, 

Ceola's son, with his kinsmen to hold it. 60 

The first of the Vikings who ventured to set 

Foot on the bridge, he felled with his spear. 

Two sturdy warriors stood with Wulfstan, 

Maccus and ^lfhere, mighty pair, 

Kept the approach where the crossing was shallow; 65 

Defended the bridge, and fought with the boldest, 

As long as their hands could lift a sword. 

When the strangers discovered and clearly saw 

What bitter fighters the bridgewards proved, 

They tried a trick, the treacherous robbers, 70 

Begged they might cross and bring their crews 

Over the shallows and up to the shore. 

The earl was ready in reckless daring 

To let them land too great a number. 

Byrhthelm's son, while the seamen listened, 75 

Called across, o'er the cold water: 

"Come ye seamen, come and fight us! 

We give you ground, but God alone knows 

Who to-day shall hold the field." 

Strode the battle-wolves, bold through the water; 80 

West over Panta waded the pirates; 

Carried their shields o'er the shining waves; 

Safely their lindenwoods landed the sailors. 

Byrhtnoth awaited them, braced for the onslaught, 

Haughty and bold at the head of his band. 85 

Bade them build the bristling war-hedge, 

Shield against shield, to shatter the enemy. 

Near was the battle, now for the glory, 

Now for the death of the doomed in the field. 

Swelled the war-cry, circled the ravens, 90 

Screamed the eagle, eager for prey; 

Sped from the hand the hard-forged spear-head, 



HISTORIC WAR-POEMS 87 

Showers of darts sharp from the grind-stone. 

Bows were busy, bolt stuck in buckler; 

Bitter the battle-rush, brave men fell, 95 

Heroes on either hand hurt in the fray. 

Wounded was Wulfmaer, went to his battle-rest; 

Cruelly mangled, kinsman of Byrhtnoth, 

Son of his sister, slain on the field. 

Pay of vengeance they paid the Vikings; 100 

I heard of the deed of the doughty Edward: 

He struck with his sword a stroke that was mighty, 

Down fell the doomed man, dead at his feet. 

For this the thane got the thanks of his leader, 

Praise that was due for his prowess in fight. 105 

Grimly they held their ground in the battle, 

Strove with each other the stout-hearted heroes, 

Strove with each other, eager to strike 

First with their darts the foe that was doomed. 

Warriors thronged, the wounded lay thick. 100 

Stalwart and steady they stood about Byrhtnoth. 

Bravely he heartened them, bid them to win 

Glory in battle by beating the Danes. 

Raising his shield, he rushed at the enemy; 

Covered by buckler, he came at a Viking; 115 

Charged him furious, earl against churl, 

Each for the other had evil in store. 

The sailorman sent from the south a javelin, 

Sorely wounding the war-band's leader; 

He shoved with his shield, the shaft snapped short; 120 

The spear was split and sprang against him; 

Wroth was Byrhtnoth, reached for his weapon; 

Gored the Viking that gave him the wound. 

Straight went the lance, strong was the leader; 

He thrust it sheer through the throat of the pirate. 125 

So sure his aim, the shot meant death. 

Swiftly he sent him a second javelin, 



88 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

That crashed through his corslet and cleft his bosom, 
Wounded him sore through his woven mail. 
The poisonous spear-head stood in his heart, 130 

Blithe was the leader, laughed in his breast, 
Thanked his Lord for that day's work. 

Now one of the pirates poised his dart; 

Sped from his hand a spear that pierced 

Through and through the thane of Ethelred. 135 

There stood at his side a stripling youth; 

Brave was the boy; he bent o'er his lord, 

Drew from his better the bloody point. 

'Twas Wulfmaer the youthful, son of Wulfstan; 

Back he hurled the hardened spear. 140 

In went the point, to earth fell the pirate 

Who gave his master the mortal hurt. 

A crafty seaman crept toward the earl, 

Eager to rob his armor and rings, 

His bracelets and gear and graven sword. 145 

Then Byrhtnoth drew his blade from the sheath, 

Broad and blood-marked, and struck for the breast-plate. 

But one of the seamen stopped the warrior, 

Beat down the arm of the earl with his lance. 

Fell to the ground the gray-hilted sword; 150 

No more he might grasp his goodly blade, 

Wield his weapon; yet words he could utter; 

The hoar-headed warrior heartened his men; 

Bade them forward to fare and be brave. 

When the stricken leader no longer could stand, 155 

He looked to heaven and lifted his voice: 

"I render Thee thanks O Ruler of men, 

For the joys Thou hast given, that gladdened my life. 

Merciful Maker, now most I need, 

Thy goodness to grant me a gracious end, 160 

That my soul may swiftly speed to Thee, 

Come to Thy keeping, O King of angels, 



HISTORIC WAR-POEMS 89 

Depart in peace. I pray Thee Lord 

That the fiends of hell may not harm my spirit.'* 

The heathen pirates then hewed him to pieces, 165 

And both the brave men that by him stood; 

/Elfnoth and Wulfmaer, wounded to death, 

Gave their lives for their lord in the fight. 

Then quitted the field the cowards and faint-hearts; 

The son of Odda started the flight. 170 

Godric abandoned his good lord in battle, 

Who many a steed had bestowed on his thane. 

Leaped on the horse that belonged to his leader, 

Not his were the trappings, he had no right to them. 

Both of his brothers basely fled with him, 175 

Godwin and Godwy, forgetful of honor, 

Turned from the fight, and fled to the woods, 

Seeking the cover, and saving their lives. 

Those were with them, who would have remained 

Had they remembered how many favors 180 

Their lord had done them in days of old. 

Offa foretold it, what time he arose 

To speak where they met to muster their forces. 

Many, he said, were mighty in words 

Whose courage would fail when it came to the fighting. 

There lay on the field the lord of the people, 186 

/Ethelred's earl; all of them saw him, 
His hearth-companions beheld him dead. 
Forward went fighting the fearless warriors, 
Their courage was kindled, no cowards were they; 
Their will was fixed on one or the other: 190 

To lose their life, or avenge their leader 
/Elfwine spoke to them, son of ^Elfric, 
Youthful in years, but unyielding in battle; 
Roused their courage, and called them to honor: 
"Remember the time when we talked in the mead-hall, 



90 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

When bold on our benches we boasted our valor, 

Deeds of daring we'd do in the battle! 

Now we may prove whose prowess is true. 

My birth and my breeding I boldly proclaim: 200 

I am sprung from a mighty Mercian line. 

Aldhelm the alderman, honored and prosperous, 

He was my grandsire, great was his fame: 

My people who know me shall never reproach me, 

Say I was ready to run from the battle, 

Go back to my home, and abandon my leader, 

Slain in the field. My sorrow is double, 

Both kinsman and lord I've lost in the fight. 

Forward he threw himself, thirsting for vengeance; 

Sent his javelin straight at a pirate. 210 

Fell with a crash his foe to the earth, 

His life-days ended. Then onward he pushed, 

Urging his comrades to keep in the thick of it. 

Up spake Offa, with ashen spear lifted: 

"Well hast thou counselled us, well hast encouraged, 

Noble /FAiw'me, needs must we follow thee. 215 

Now that our leader lies low on the field, 

Needs must we steadfastly stand by each other; 

Close in the conflict keeping together, 

As long as our hands can hold a weapon, 220 

Good blade wield. Godric the coward, 

Son of Odda, deceived us all. 

Too many believed 'twas our lord himself 

When they saw him astride the war-steed proud. 

His run-away ride our ranks hath broken; 225 

Shattered the shield-wall. Shame on the dastard! 

Who caused his comrades like cowards to fly! 

Up spake Leofsunu, lifted his linden-wood, 

Answered his comrades from under his shield: 

"Here I stand, and here shall I stay! 230 

Not a foot will I flinch, but forward I'll go! 



HISTORIC WAR-POEMS 9 1 

Vengeance I've vowed for my valiant leader. 

Now that my friend is fallen in battle, 

My people shall never reproach me, in Stourmere; 

Call me deserter, and say I returned 235 

Leaderless, lordless, alone from the fight. 

Better is battle-death; boldly I welcome 

The edge and the iron." Full angry he charged, 

Daring all danger, disdaining to fly. 

Up spake Dunhere, old and faithful, 

Shook his lance and shouted aloud, 240 

Bade them avenge the valiant Byrhtnoth: 

"Wreak on the Danes the death of our lord! 

Unfit is for vengeance who values his life." 

Fell on the foe the faithful body-guard, 245 

Battle-wroth spearmen, beseeching God 

That they might venge the thane of .^Ethelred, 

Pay the heathen with havoc and slaughter. 

The son of Ecglaf, ^Escferth by name, 

Come of a hardy North-humbrian race, 250 

— He was their hostage, — helped them manfully. 

Never he faltered or flinched in the war-play; 

Lances a plenty he launched at the pirates, 

Shot them on shield, or sheer through the breast-plate; 

Rarely he missed them, many he wounded, 255 

While he could wield his weapon in battle. 

Still Edward the long held out at the front; 

Brave and defiant, he boasted aloud 

That he would not yield a hair's breadth of ground, 

Nor turn his back where his better lay dead. 260 

He broke through the shield-wall, breasted the foe, 

Worthily paid the pirate warriors 

For the life of his lord ere he laid him down. 

Near him ^thelric, noble comrade, 

Brother of Sibryht, brave and untiring, 265 

Mightily fought, and many another; 



92 FROM BEGINNING TO NORMAN CONQUEST 

Hacked the hollow shields, holding their own. 

Bucklers were shivered the breast-plate sang 

Its gruesome song. The sword of Offa 

Went home to the hilt in the heart of a Viking. 270 

But Offa himself, soon had to pay for it, 

The kinsman of Gadd succumbed in the fight. 

Yet ere he fell, he fulfilled his pledge, 

The promise he gave to his gracious lord, 

That both should ride to their burg together, 275 

Home to their friends, or fall in the battle, 

Killed in war, and covered with wounds; 

He lay by his lord, a loyal thane. 

Mid clash of shields the shipmen came on, 

Maddened by battle. Full many a lance 280 

Home was thrust to the heart of the doomed. 

Then sallied forth Wistan, Wigelin's son; 

Three of the pirates he pierced in the throng, 

Ere he fell, by his friends, on the field of slaughter. 

Bitter the battle-rush, bravely struggled 285 

Heroes in armor, while all around them 

The wounded dropped and the dead lay thick. 

Oswold and Eadwold all the while 

Their kinsmen and comrades encouraged bravely, 

Both of the brothers bade their friends 290 

Never to weaken or weary in battle, 

But keep up their sword-play, keen to the end. 

Up spake Byrhtwold, brandished his ash-spear, 

— He was a tried and true old hero, — 

Lifted his shield and loudly called to them: 295 

"Heart must be keener, courage the hardier, 

Bolder our mood as our band diminisheth. 

Here lies in his blood our leader and comrade, 

The brave on the beach. Bitter shall rue it 

Who turns his back on the battle-field now. 300 

Here I stay; I am stricken and old; 



HISTORIC WAR-POEMS 93 

My life is done; I shall lay me down 
Close by my lord and comrade dear." 

[Six more lines and the MS. breaks off. There cannot have 
been much left. The battle is over. And the words of old 
Byrhtwold make a fitting close for these renderings of Old En- 
glish verse. "Dark and true and tender is the north," and it 
dies fighting.] 



PART SECOND. 

FROM THE NORMAN CONQUEST TO 
CHAUCER 

I. HISTORY AND ROMANCE 

ffiagamott 

(About 1 200.) 
HOW LAYAMON WROTE HIS BOOK 

(From the Brut, about 1205) 

In the land lived a priest, who was Layamon called, 

He was Leovenath's son; Lord to him be gracious, 

He abided at Arnley, at the great Church there 

Upon Severn's side, (it seemed to him good there) 

Hard by to Radestone, where he read bookes. 5 

It came in his mind, and he made it his purpose, 

To tell of the English and triumphs of old; 

What names the men had, and what lands they were come 

from; 
What folk English-land first of all owned 
After the deluge that down from the Lord came 10 

Which quelled all men that quick here it founde, 
Except Noah and Shem, Japhet and Ham, 
And their four wives with them, who were in the ark. 



96 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

So 'gan Layamon wander wide 'mongst the people, 

And noble books got he for guides in his labours. 15 

That English book took he, made by Saint Basda, 

Another in Latin, left by Saint Albin, 

And the fair Austin, who founded our churches. 

A third he took likewise, and laid it among them, 

That a French clerk had made, — Wace was he called, 20 

This goodly writing he gave to the noble 

Eleanor, of Henry, that high King, his Queen. 

Layamon laid these books down, their leaves he turned over, 

With love he looked on them, the Lord grant him mercy, 

Feather took he with fingers, and fair on the book-skin [pen] 

The sooth words then wrote he, and set them together, 26 

And these three writings he wrought into one. 

Now Layamon prayeth for God's love Almighty, 

Each good man who readeth words in this book written, 

And heedeth this teaching that these holy wordes 30 

He say all together: 

For the soul of his father, who forth him broughte, 

For the soul of his mother, who made him a man, 

And for his own soul so that better befall it. 

Amen. 35 



Sofort of (Slnurrstrr 

In Praise of England 

(From Riming Chronicle, about 1300) 

England is a right good land, I ween of all the best. 

Set it is at the world's end, afar within the west, 

And all about it goes the sea, it standeth as an isle. 

Its foes it thus needs fear the less, except it be through guile 



ROBERT OF GLOUCESTER 97 

On part of folk of its own land, as hath been seen erstwhile. 5 
From North to South it stretches out in length eight hundred 

mile, 
Two hundred miles from East to West in breadth the land 

extends; — 
In the mid-land, that is to say, and not as at one end. 
Plenty one may in Engeland of all good thinges see; 
If only folk will spoil them not, or other worse years be. 10 
For Engeland is full enough of fruit and eke of treen, 
Of woodes and of parkes most joyful to be seen; 
Of fowles and of beastes, both wild and tame also; 
Of salt fish and of fresh fish, of rivers fair thereto; 
Of wells both sweet and cold enough, of pasture and of 

mead; 15 

Of ore of silver and of gold, of tin and eke of lead; 
Of steel, of iron, and of brass, of coin in great plenty; 
Of wheat and eke of wool, so good none better may there be. 
Waters it hath enough also; before all others three, 
As arms are these out of the land, and reaching to the sea. 20 
By them the ships may come from sea and out their way may 

trace, 
And bring inland enough of goods, well nigh every place. • 
Severn, and Thames, and Humber, so these three rivers 

stand; 
And in the midst, as hath been said, there lyeth the pure land. 



NORMAN AND ENGLISH 

(From the same) 

Thus came, lo Engeland into Normandy's hand, 

And the Normans could speak then naught but their own 

speech, 
And spoke French as at home, and their children did teach, 
So high men of this land, that of Norman blood come, 



98 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

Keep them all to that speech that they had at their home. 5 
If a man know not French, small store men by him set, 
But low men hold to English and to their own speech yet. 
I ween that there beeth in the world countries none 
That hold not to their own speech but England alone. 
And well do I wot to know both well it is, 10 

For the more a man knows the more worth he is. 



Slaturwre mutot 

(About 1 300-1 3 52) 

THE BATTLE OF HALIDON HILL 

Listen, Lordings, if you will 
Hear of the battle of Halidon Hill. 

True King that sitteth on thy throne, 

Unto thee I tell my tale, 

And unto thee I bid a boon, . 5 

For thou art balm of all my bale. 

As thou hast made the earth and moon, 

And beasts and foules great and smale, 

Unto me send thy succour soon 

Direct my deedes in this dale. 10 

In this dale I droup and dare [pine] 

For evil deeds that cost me dear, 

For England had my heart great care, 

When Edward went at first to were. [war] 

The men of France were bold to fare 15 

Against him with the shield and spear; 

They turned again with sides sair 

And all their pomp not worth a pear. 



LAWRENCE MINOT 99 

A pear is more of price sometide [sometimes] 

Than all the boast of Normandie. 20 

They sent their ships on ilka side 

With flesh and wine and wheat and rye; 

With heart and hand, 'tis not denied, 

For to help Scotland gan they hie, 

They fled and durst no deed abide 25 

And all their boast not worth a flye. 

For all their boast they durst not fight, 

For dint of death they had such dout, [har] 

Of Scotland had they never sight 

Although they were of wordes stout. 30 

They would have magnified their might 

And troubled were they there about. 

Now God help Edward in his right, — 

Amen — and all his ready rout. 

His ready rout may Jesu speed. 35 

And save them both by night and day; 

That Lord of Heaven may Edward lead, 

And him maintain as well He may, 

The Scotchmen now all wide will sprede [disperse] 

For they have failed of their prey, 40 

Now are they daunted all for drede 

That were before so stout and gay. 

Gay they were and well they thought 

On Earl Moray and others stout; 

They said it should full dear be bought 45 

The land whence they were driven out. 

Philip Valois wordes wrought, 

And said he should their foeman stay; 

But all these words they went for naught 

Words must be meet or weak are they. 50 



IOO FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

More menaces they boasting cry, 

Bad fortune may they have for meed; 

And many a night awake they lie 

To harm all England by their deed; 

But low is now that pride so high 55 

Of those that were so stout on steed; 

And some of them all naked lie 

Not far from Berwick upon Tweed. 

A little from that selfsame town, 

Halidon Hill that is the name, 60 

There was cracked many a crown 

Of the wild Scot and eke of tame. 

Then was their banner borne all down, 

To make such boasts they were to blame; 

But natheless aye are they boune [ready] 65 

To hurt England with sorrow and shame. 

Shame they have as I here say; 

At Dundee now is done their dance, 

And wend they must another way 

Even through Flanders into France. 70 

On Philip Valois fast cry they. 

There for to dwell and him advance. 

And nothing list they now to play 

Since them befell this sorry chance. 

This sorry chance hath them o'erthrown, 75 

For they were false and wondrous fell; 

For cursed caitiffs are they known 

And full of treason, sooth to tell. 

Sir John Comyn had they struck down, 

In holy kirk they did him quell; [kill] 80 

So many a Scottish bride makes moan 

With dolour dight there must they dwell, [griej-stricketi] 



LAWRENCE MINOT IOI 

There dwelled our king, the sooth to sayn, 

With his menie a little while; [company] 

He gave good comfort on that plain 85 

To all his men about a mile. 

Although his men were mickle of main, [great of might] 

Ever they doubted them of guile; 

They Scottish gauds might nowise gain 

For all they stumbled at that stile. 90 

They came not from that strife alive 

That were before so proud in prese, [the post of danger] 

Jesu, for thy woundes five, 

In England help us to have peace. 

PRAYER FOR KING EDWARD 

(From How Edward the King came to Brabant.)^ 

God that shaped both sea and sand, 

Save Edward, King of Engeland, 

Both body, soul, and life, 

And grant him joy withouten strife; 

For many men 'gainst him are wroth 5 

In France and in Flanders both, 

For he defendeth fast his right 

And thereto Jesu grant him might, 

That he may do so night and day 

That it may be for Goddes pay. [satisfaction] 10 

SONG OF THE SCOTTISH MAIDENS AFTER THE 
BATTLE OF BANNOCKBURN 

(i3 J 4) 

Maidens of Engelande sore may ye mourn 
For the loss of your true-loves at Bannockes burn! 
With heve-a-lowe! 



102 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

What? Weened the King of Engelande 
To have gotten Scotland? 

With rumbylowe! 



Soljn larfuwr 

(About 1316-1395) 

FREEDOM 

(From The Bruce) 

Ah! Freedom is a noble thing! 

Freedom makes man to have liking; [his wish] 

Freedom all solace to man giveth, 

He liveth at ease that freely liveth. 

A noble heart may have no ease, e 

May have naught else that may him please, 

If freedom fail'th; for free liking 

Is yearned for o'er all other thing. 

Nay, he that aye has lived free 

May not know well the propertie, I0 

The anger, nay, the wretched doom 

That coupled is to foul thraldome, 

But if he had assayed it 

Then all perforce he should it wit; [know] 

And should think freedom more to prize 15 

Than all the gold in world that is. 

Thus contrar thinges evermore 

Disclosers of the tother are. 



SIR ORPHEO IO3 

(14th Century) 

We read full oft and find y-writ 

As clerkes wise make us to wit, 

Those lays that have for men's harping 

Been made of many a noble thing: 

Some are of weal; and some of woe, 5 

Some of joy and mirth also. 

Some of jest and ribaldry, 

And some there are of faerie; 

Of traitors some, and some of guile, 

Or some mishap that chanced erstwhile: 10 

Of all the things that men may see 

Most fit to praise forsooth they be. 

In Brittany these lays were wrought, 

There first were made, and thence were brought 

Of aventures that fell in days 15 

Wherof the Britons make their lays. 

And when they wished to glorify 

Their aventures in days gone by, 

They took their harps with glee and game 

And made a lay and did it name. 20 

Of aventures that did befall 

I can tell some but nowise all. 

Harken, lordlings, that be true, 

And I will tell of Sir Orphew. 

Orpheo was a riche King, 25 

And in his time a great lording; 
A most fair man both large and tall, 
And courteous and brave withal. 
His father was come of King Pluto, 



104 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

And his mother came of Queen Juno, 30 

Who in old times as gods were holden 

For deeds they did and words they tolden. 

Orpheo most of anything, 

Loved the music of harping; 

Certain was every good harp6ur 35 

From him to have most high hon6ur. 

Right well himself he loved to harp, 

And gave thereto his wittes sharp; 

He learned so that there was none, 

Who could harp better 'neath the sun. 40 

Man in this world was never born, 

Who, if he Orpheo sat beforn, 

And once might of his harping hear, 

But he should thinke that he were 

In one of the joys of Paradis, 45 

Such music in his harping is. 

Orpheo lived in Crassens, 

A city that is of noble defence, 

He hath a queen full fair of pris, [price] 

That called is Dame Erodys, 50 

The fairest woman for the nones [in her time] 

That might be made of flesh and bones, 

Full of all love and of goodness, 

No man may tell of her fairness. 

It befel in time of May, 55 

That is merry and pleasing the summer's day, 

Away have gone the winter's showers, 

And every field is full of flowers, 

Of blossoms springing on the bough, 

O'er all the land 'tis merry enow, 60 

That this same Queen, Dame Erodys, 

Took with her maidens two of pris, 

And walked in the undertide [morning] 

To play within her orchard-side, 

To see the flowers spread and spring, 65 



SIR ORPHEO 105 

And see and hear the sweet birds sing. 

Then down they seated them all three, 

Fairly beneath an ympe tree, [grafted tree] 

And full soon that fairest queen, 

Fell fast asleep upon the green, 70 

The maidens durst not her awake, 

But round her they 'gan merry make, 

And let her sleep till afternoon 

When the undertide was gone; 

And as soon as she gan wake 75 

She cried and lothly 'gan her make, [to make herself 

Her hands and eke her feet she tore, look frightful] 

And scratched her till she bled full sore; 

Her clothing rich she all to-rent, 

All wild out of her wittes went; 80 

The maidens two that sat beside, 

They durst no longer there abide, 

But straightway sought the castle hail 

And told both knights and squires all, 

How that their Queen away would go. 85 

The knights went out, and ladies too, 

And demoiselles fifty and many mo [more] 

To fetch her as they fain would do. 

Into the orchard ran they out 

And took her in their armes stout, 90 

And brought her to her bed at last 

And therein held her down full fast; 

But still she cried in angry mood, 

And rent herself as she were wode. [mad] 

When heard the King this dread tiding, 95 

He was never so woe for any thing. 

The King came with his knightes keen [bold] 

Into the chamber to his Queen, 

And for her had he great pitie. 

"Sweet heart," he said, "how may this be, 100 

That thou who ever wert so still, 



106 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

Shouldst now cry out so loud and shrill? 

Thy body that was white beforn, 

Now with thy nails is rent and torn. 

Alas! thy cheeks which were so red 

Are now all wan and grey as lead, 

And thy dainty fingers fair, 

Pallid now and bloody are. 

Alas! thy lovely eyen too 

Look on me as on a foe. no 

Ladie dear, I crave mercfe, 

Let be all this rueful cry, 

And tell to me what thing, and how, 

If any thing, — may help thee now." 

Still grows the lady at the last, 115 

While she began to weep full fast, 

Saying, while yet the tears would flow, 

"Alas! my lord, Sir Orpheo, 

Never since we two plighted troth 

Was either with the other wroth, 120 

Yet ever hast thou loved me, 

With all mine heart so have I thee; 

And now we twain shall part in two 

Do thy best, yet I must go.'' 

"Alas!" he said, "my life is bare, 125 

Unto whom goest thou and where? 

Where thou comest thou shalt with me, 

Whither thou goest I will with thee." 

"Sir," said she, "it may not be thus, 

I'll tell thee how it is with us. 130 

As I lay this undertide 

Asleep upon the orchard-side, 

Two gallant knights came to me there, 

Arrayed in richest garments fair, 

And bade me come without letting, 135 

To speak unto their lord the king. 

Right boldly then I answered there — 



SIR ORPHEO 107 

'Nor will I come, nor do I dare.' 

At the word they did depart, 

Then came their King so blithe of heart, 140 

With a thousand knights and mo 

And fifty fair ladies also, 

A-riding all on snow-white steeds 

And snow-white also were their weeds, 

Never, in faith, since I was born 145 

Knights so fair came me beforn. 

The King a crown had on his head, 

'Twas not of silver, nor gold so red, 

All it was of precious stone, 

As bright as sun forsooth it shone. 150 

He stayed for naught but straight me sought, 

And willy, nilly, me he caught, 

And he made me with him to ride 

On a white palfrey by his side, 

And brought me in to his palys, [palace] 155 

Right well bedight it was I wis. 

He showed me castles, halls and towers, 

Rivers, meadows, fields and flowers, 

And his forests every one; 

And after, back he brought me home, 160 

Back into our own orchard, 

And said to me this afterward: 

'Look tomorrow that thou be 

Here beneath this ympe tree; 

And if thou makest any let, 165 

Where'er thou be thou shalt be fet, [fetched] 

And' to tear thy limbes all, 

Shall help thee naught whate'er befall, 

And although thou be all torn 

Yet away shalt thou be borne.' " 170 

When the King he heard this case, 
"Out!" he said, "alas! alas! 
I had rather lose my life 



108 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

Than to lose the Queen my wife!" 

Counsel he asked of many man 1 75 

But of them all none help him can. 

The hour came, the morrow's sun, 

The King hath put his armour on, 

Two hundred knights he takes with him, 

Fully armed, stout and grim: 180 

Out then with the Queen went he 

Into the orchard 'neath the tree; 

Then did they watch on every side, 

And planned that there they would abide, 

Resolved to suffer death and woe, 185 

E'er that the Queen from them should go. 

But shortly then did it befall, 

As the Queen sat among them all, 

The fairy took that lady fair 

And she was gone — no man wist where 190 

Crying and weeping there was als6, 

The King gan to his chamber go, 

He fell adown upon the stone, 

And made great dole and mickle moan, 

Well nigh he had himself yschent [disgraced] 195 

He saw there was no amendement. 

He sent for earl and for bar6un, 

And other lords of great renown, 

And, when they all together were, 

"Lordes," he said, " assembled here, 200 

I set mine steward of mine hall 

To keep my landes over all. 

Now my Queen is left forlorn, 

The best ladie that e'er was born; 

No more will I woman see, 205 

In wilderness now will I be, 

And there abide in woodlands hoar 

And in the wilds forevermore. 

Then when ye know I have left all, 



SIR ORPHEO 109 

Ye straight a parliament shall call, 210 

And ye shall chose you a new King, 

And do your best in everything." 

Great sorrow then was in the hall, 

Weeping and crying 'mongst them all, 

And there might neither old nor young 215 

For weeping speak a word with tongue. 

They kneeled all a-down i-fere, [logelher\ 

And begged him if his will it were, 

That he would never from them go, 

"Away!" he said, "I will not so." 220 

Then all his kindred he forsook 

And unto him a sclaveyn took, [hair-shirt] 

He would have no other hood; 

Hose, nor shoe, nor other good; 

Only his harp he took, and straight 225 

He journeyed barefoot through the gate. 

No man there must with him go, 

Alas! there weeping was and woe. 

He that was King and bare the crown, 

Went out so poorly from the town, 230 

Into the wild he takes his road, 

Both through the heath and through the wood. 

Nothing he hath to give him ease, 

But ever lives in great malaise. [discomfort] 

In the rough wood he nights must pass, 235 

And cover him with herb and grass; 

He that had a great plentie, 

Meat, and drink, and dignitie, 

Now must dig and grub at will 

Ere of roots he gets his fill. 240 

In summer on the haws he lives, 

That midst her leaves the hawthorne gives; 

In winter, by the root and rind, 

For other thing he may not find. 

He was all shrunken, shriveled, pale, 245 



IIO FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

With beating rain, and cutting hail; 

No man could tell the travail sore 

He had endured ten years or more. 

He that had castles, halls and towers, 

Forests, rivers, fields, and flowers, 250 

Nothing that likes him now had he, [pleases him] 

Naught but wild beasts that from him flee, 

His matted beard has shaggy grown, 

Below his girdle has it gone. 

He taketh harp and maketh glee, 255 

And lies all night beneath a tree. 

When bright and clear there dawns the day, 

He takes his harp and makes no stay, 

Amidst the wood he sits him down 

And tunes his harp with a merry soun, 260 

And harps all after his own will; 

Through all the wood it ringeth shrill. 

The savage beasts that there are found 

For joy about him gather round, 

And all the little birds that were, 265 

For joy they come about him there 

To listen to that harping fine, 

So mickle joy there was therein. 

His harping when he laid aside, 

Nor bird, nor beast would then abide, 270 

But all together they are flown, 

And leave him there to sit alone. 

Often saw he him beside, 

In the heat of summer-tide, 

The Fairy King with all his rout, 275 

Come a-hunting all about. 

With shout and merry din they go 

And noise of hound and horn also; 

And yet forsooth, no beast they slay, 

Nor knows he where they take their way. 280 

And other whiles he may espye, 



SIR ORPHEO III 

A mighty hunt go passing by, 

Full two hundred knights of pride 

Armed through the forest ride. 

Some while he saw other thing, 285 

Knights and ladies come riding 

With raiment bright and courtly grace, 

Moving all with easy pace, 

Tabors and pipes with them there be, 

And every kind of minstrelsy, 290 

And ladies too there come riding, 

Jolie they were in everything, 

Gentle and gay they were I wis, 

Nor no man there among them is. 

Hawk on hand did each one bear, 295 

And hawking went by the rivere, 

Of game they found the favorite haunt, 

Pheasant, hern, and cormorant. 

The birds from out the river flew, 

And every hawk his quarry slew. 300 

That Orpheo saw in merry mood, 

As underneath the bough he stood; 

"Parfay," he said, "there is good game, 

Thither will I, in Goddes name." 

Such sport was he wont to see, 305 

So up he rose and there came he. 

One lady there he came unto, 

He searched her face and form also, 

Right well he knew it was, I wis, 

His own ladie, Dame Erodys 310 

He saw her plain and she him eke, 

Yet ne'er a word did either speak. 

For him she did so poor espy 

That sometime was so rich and high, 

The tears ran down her face, I wis, 315 

And looking on her so did his, 

And then away they made her ride, 



112 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

For there no longer she might bide. 

"Alas!" he said, "and woe is me! 

Why will not death come suddenly, 320 

Wretch that I am! O, that I might 

Die now, when I have seen this sight! 

Alas! too long lasteth my life, 

Since I may speak not with my wife, 

Nor she with me a word may speak! 325 

Alas! why will my heart not break! 

Parfay! he said, whate'er betide, 

I will see where those ladies ride, 

And in that way I too will go — 

I care not for my life a sloe." [berry 0} the 330 

His sclavyne put he on his back blackthorn] 

And took his harp right as he spak, 

And swiftly after them is gone, 

Over stock and over stone. 

In at the rock the ladies ride, 335 

He went straight after, he would not bide 

When he was into the rock y-go 

Full three mile and some deal mo, 

He came unto a fair countray, 

It was as bright as any day. 340 

Neither hill nor dale was seen, 

All was lawn full fair and green, 

Midst it a castle met his eye, 

Noble and rich, and wondrous high, 

Over all the topmost wall 345 

Shone as doth the clear crystal, 

And the towers that were there 

Were gaily set with pearles fair; 

The farthest rising from the ditch 

Was all of gold and silver rich; 350 

The front that stood amidst them broad 

Was all of divers metals made; 

Within a wondrous dwelling wide 



SIR ORPHEO 113 

With gold and gems all glorified. 

So fair the palace shone by night 355 

That all the town was full of light, 

Those riche stones so fairly shone 

They were as bright as any sun, 

No man might tell, nor think in thought, 

The riches that therein were wrought. 360 

The ladies at the castle light, 

He followed swiftly as he might; 

Orpheo knocked at the gate, 

Ready the porter was thereat, 

And asked him "what wilt thou so?" 365 

"Parfay! I am a minstrallo, 

I bring thee solace with my glee, [music] 

That thou the merrier may be." 

He then undid the castle gate, 

And let him in the palace straight. 370 

About looked Orpheo over all, 

He saw folk sit beneath the wall; 

And some that had been brought thereto, 

They seemed dead yet were not so, 

And there among them lay his wife, 375 

That he loved as his owne life; 

She lay beneath an ympe tree, 

By her look he wist 'twas she. 

Then forth he went into the hall, 

There was great joy amongst them all. 380 

The riche King was seated there, 

And Orpheo gave him greeting fair; 

Beside him sate a Queene bright, 

Hardly of her he had a sight. 

When he had looked on all this thing, 385 

He kneeled down before the King, 

And asked him if his will it were 

That he his minstrelsy would hear. 



114 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

Then said the King: "And what art thou, 

Who come into my presence now? 

Myself nor none that is with me, 390 

Have ever yet sent after thee. 

Since I this kingdom first began 

I have not found so brave a man 

Who hither dared to come or wend 395 

Save that I after him should send." 

"Sir," he said, "I trow full weel, 

I hold it sooth, sir, every deal, 

It is the custom of us all 

To come to every lordes hall, 400 

And though we may not welcome be, 

Proffer we must our game or glee." 

Before the King he sat him down, 

And took his harp of merry soun, 

And straightway as full well he can, 405 

Many blithe notes he then began. 

The King looked up and sat full still, 

To hear his harping he had good will. 

When he had ceased from his harping, 

Then said to him that riche King: 410 

"Minstrel, me liketh well thy glee; 

Whatever thing thou ask of me, 

Freely now I will thee pay, 

Therefore, ask now, and assay." 

"Lord," he said, "I beg of thee, 415 

If that it shall your pleasure be, 

Give me that lady bright of ble, [hue] 

That lies beneath yon ympe tree." 

"Nay," he said, "that may I ne'er, 

For ye would be a sorry pair; 420 

Thou art all shaggy rough and black, 

And she is made withouten lack. 

A foule thing it were to see, 

To put her in thy companie." 



SIR ORPHEO 115 

"Lord," he said, "thou riche King, 425 

It were yet a fouler thing, 

To hear a lying word from thee, 

As though thou promised nought to me, 

Saying thou'd give me what I would 

A Kinges word must needs hold good." 430 

"Thou sayest sooth," the King said than, 

"Forsooth thou art a true man. 

I will well that it be so, 

Take her by the hand, and go. 

I will that thou of her be blithe." 435 

And him he thanked many a sythe. [many times] 

He took her by the hand anon, 

With right good will they out are gone 

And fast they hied from that palace, 

And went their way through Goddes grace; 440 

Into the wilds they both are gone, 

O'er holt and heath they journey on. 

And so they take their way full fast, 

And to Crassens they come at last. 

That sometime was his own citie, 445 

But no man wist that it was he. 

With beggar poor of humblest life 

A space he tarried with his wife. 

He asked tidings of the land, 

And who the kingdom had in hand. 450 

The humble beggar in his cote, 

Answering, told him every grote; 

How that the Queen was fetched away 

To the land of faerie on a day, 

And how the King did after go, 455 

But to what place no man can know. 

The Steward, he says, the land doth hold; 

So many tidings he them told. 

The morrow at the noone tide 

Sir Orpheo bade his Queen there bide, 460 



Il6 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

He took his harp and right anon 

Into the town he straight is gone. 

And when he came to the citie, 

Many a man him came to see, 

Men and wives and maidens fair, 465 

Gathered fast to see him there; 

And marvelled much as him they view, 

How thick the moss upon him grew; 

"His beard is grown right to his knee, 

His body is withered as a tree." 470 

Then his own Steward did he meet, 

Passing in state adown the street, 

And Orpheo fell upon his knee 

And said: "Lord help, for charitie, 

A minstrel I of Heathenesse, 475 

Lord help me now in this distress." 

The Steward said: "With me come home, 

And of my goods thou shalt have some, 

For Orpheo's sake once Lord to me, 

All minestralles shall welcome be." 480 

Anon they went into the hall, 

The Steward and the lordes all. 

The Steward washed, and went to meat, 

And all the lordes down were set, 

Then was there music in the hall, 485 

But Orpheo sat against the wall. 

When all are still, the music done, 

He took his harp of sounding tone, 

And fast on it he played the glee; 

The Steward looked, and 'gan to see, 490 

For well he knew that harp most blithe; 

"Minstrel," he said, "as thou mayst thrive, 

How gottest thou that harp, and where? 

Now for thine honor tell me fair." 

"Lord, in an uncouth land," he said, [unknown] 495 

"I found it in a forest glade; 



SIR ORPHEO 117 

I saw a man grown thin and pale, 

It lay beside him in a dale, 

Now it must be ten winters gone." 

The Steward cried, and made great moan, 500 

"It was my Lord, Sir Orpheo, 

Ah! that he e'er did from us go." 

The King beheld the Steward than, 

And wist he was a right true man; 

To him he said without lying, 505 

"Sir, I am Orpheo, the King. 

Here to the outskirts of the town, 

I've brought my gentle lady down." 

The lords all start that sit around, 

Then wist they that the King was found, 510 

With music and processioun, 

They fetched the Queen into the town. 

A good life lived they afterward, 

And after them reigned the Steward. 

Thus came they out of all their care, 515 

God give us grace as well to fare! 

And all that list to this talking 

In heaven's bliss be their dwelling! 

Amen, amen, for charitie, 

Lord grant us that it so may be. 520 



THE SEASONS 

(From Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight. About 1370) 
(Author unknou n) 

For the Yule-tide had yielded, and the year after 
And each several season ensued after other. 
Thus after Christmas came crabbed Lent-time, 
That affords fish for flesh, and food the most simple. 
Eut then the world's weather with winter is warring; 



Il8 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

Winter withdraws himself, white clouds uplift; 
Soft descendeth the rain in showers full warm, 
They fall on fair fields and the flowers are showing, 
Both the ground and the grove now with green are arrayed, 
Birds bestir them to build, and bravely are singing 10 

For solace of summer ensuing thereafter 
On bank. 

And blossoms bud and blow 

On hedge-rows rich and rank, 

And noble notes enow 

Are heard in woodlands dank. 15 

Then comes the season of summer, in soft breezes bathed, 

Breezes that breathe themselves into seedling and herbage, 

Blithesome, in truth, is the blossom that bloometh therefrom, 

When the drenching dews drip down from the leaves, 

Biding the blissful beams of the bright sunne. 20 

Next harvest hies him, and hardens the grain, 

He warns it ere winter to wax full ripe; 

The dust of the drought he driveth aloft, 

From the face of the fields it flies full high; 

Wild winds of the welkin war with the sunne, 25 

The leaves of the woodland lie low on the ground, 

And all grey is the grass that all green was so lately. 

Then all ripens and rotteth that rose up in flower, 

To know winter is nearing now need we to tell us 

No sage 30 

Till Michaelmas' moon 

Hath come with winter's gage 

Then thinks Gawayne full soon 

Of his dread pilgrimage. 



GA WAYNE'S JOURNEY II9 

SIR GAWAYNE'S JOURNEY 

(From the same) 

Now wends he his way through the wild tracts of Logres [Eng- 
Sir Gawayne on God's hest, and no game he thought it. land\ 
Oft alone he alights, and lies down at night-fall 
Where he found not before him fare to his liking. 
O'er field and in forest, no friend but his horse, 5 

No comrade but God for counsel had he, 
Till at length he draws near to the land of North Wales. 
All Anglesey's isles on the left hand he leaves, 
And fares o'er the fording hard by the foreland, 
Over at Holy-head, till he had journeyed 10 

To Warrai's wilderness, where few are dwelling 
Who God or man with good hearts regard. 
Fain would he find from men that he met with 
News of a Knight in that neighborhood dwelling 
Who garbed him in green, or of a green chapel. 15 

All denied him with "nay", saying not in a lifetime 
Wist they ever a wight that was of such hues 
Of green. 

The Knight rode ways most strange, 

The rocky banks between, 

And oft his cheer doth change, [expression] 20 

Ere he that church hath seen. 

Many cliffs he climbed over in countries far distant; 

As out-cast, cut off from companions, he rides. 

At each way through the water where he crossed over, 

He a foe found before him, — but phantom it was, — 25 

So foul and so fell that to fight it behoved him. 

So many a marvel in these mountains he findeth, 

'Twere tedious to tell the tenth of those wonders. 

Now with serpents he struggles, and strives with wolves also, 



120 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

Satyrs sometimes assail him, strange shapes from the rocks, 30 
Both with bulls and with bears, and with boars otherwhiles, 
Or with monsters that meet him, huge men of the fells. 
He was fearless, unfalt'ring and faithful to God, 
Or he doubtless had died, for death threatened him oft. 
But war he could wage, yet the winter was worse, 35 

When the cold chilling waters, from storm-clouds down pouring 
Would freeze ere they fell on the fallow beneath. 
Near slain with the sleet, he slept in his armour, 
More nights than enough on the naked rocks, 
While clattering o'er the cliff the cold brook comes down, 40 
And high o'er his head hard icicles hang. 
Thus in perils and pains and plights the most hard, 
Till Christmas eve cometh, he keepeth alone 
His quest 

Humbly the Knight, that tide, 

Besought of Mary Blest, 45 

That she his way would guide 

Unto some place of rest. 

At morn by a mountain he merrily rideth, 

Through a woodland full wild that was wondrous and deep, 

High hills on each hand, with a holt stretching under 50 

Of hoar oaks full huge, a hundred together; 

And tangled thickets of thorn and of hazel, 

With shaggy robes of rough ragged mosses; 

Many birds sit unblithely on the bare twigs, 

And piteously pipe for pain of the cold. 55 

The rider on Gringolet rideth beneath them 

Through mire and marshes a man all alone, 

Perturbed in his toil lest to him t'were forbidden 

To share in His service, who, on that same night, 

Was born of a maid, all our sorrows to cure. 60 

Therefore sighing he said: "I beseech Thee, O Lord, 

And Mary, mildest mother so dear, 

Some shelter to show me, some spot to hear mass, 



POEMA MORALE 121 

And thy matins at morn, this meekly I beg, 
And thus promptly I pray, my Pater, and Ave, 65 

And Creed." 

So as he rode he prayed, 

And mourned for his misdeed, 

The holy sign he made, 

And said: "Christ's Cross me speed." 70 



II. MORAL AND RELIGIOUS VERSE 

POEMA MORALE 

(Before 1200) 

I am now older than I was, in wisdom and in lore, 
I wield more power than I did: were but my wisdom more. 

Too long have I been a child in word and eke in deed; 
Yet though I am in winters old, too young am I in heed. 

Methinks my life a useless one, like that I've always led; 5 
And when I ponder on it well, full sorely do I dread, 

For almost all that I have done befits unto childhood, 
And very late have me bethought, unless God helps to good. 

I've spoken many idle words since I to speak was able, 
Full many deeds I've done that now seem most unprofitable. 10 

And almost all that I once liked is hateful now to me; 
Who follows over much his will, himself deceiveth he. 

I might in truth have better done had my ill-luck been less; 
Now that I would, I can no more for age and helplessness. 

Old Age his foot-step on me stole ere I his coming wist; 15 
I could not see before me for the dark smoke and the mist. 

Laggards we are in doing good, in evil all too bold; 
Men stand in greater fear of man than of the Christ of old. 

Who doth not well the while he may, repenting oft shall rue 

The day when men shall mow and reap what they erstwhile 

did strew. 20 



122 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

A LOVE LETTER 

(Before 1226) 

A maid of Christ entreateth me 

That I for her a love-rune write 

By which most plainly she may see 

The way to choose a faithful knight; 

One that to her shall loyal be 5 

And guard and keep her by his might. 

Never will I deny her plea, 

To teach her this be my delight. 

Maiden, thou mayest well behold 

How this world's love is but a race 10 

Beset with perils manifold 

Fickle and ugly, weak and base. 

Those noble knights that once were bold 

As breath of wind pass from their place, 

Under the mold now lie they cold, 15 

They wither and they leave no trace. 

There's none so rich, nor none so free, 

But that he soon shall hence away. 

Nothing may ever his warrant be, 

Gold, nor silver, nor ermine gay. 20 

Though swift, his end he may not flee, 

Nor shield his life for a single day. 

Thus is this world, as thou may'st see, 

Like to the shadow that glides away. 



A LOVE LETTER 1 23 

This world all passes as the wind, 25 

When one thing comes, another flies; 

What was before, is now behind; 

What was held dear, we now despise. 

Therefore he does as doth the blind 

That in this world would claim his prize. 30 

This world decays, as ye may find; 

Truth is put down and wrong doth rise. 

The love that may not here abide, 

Thou dost great wrong to trust to now; 

E'en so it soon shall from thee glide, 35 

'Tis false, and brittle, and slight, I trow, 

Changing and passing with every tide, 

While it lasts it is sorrow enow; 

At end, man wears not robe so wide 

But he shall fall as leaf from bough. 40 

Paris and Helen, where are they 

That were so bright and fair of face? 

Amadas, Tristram, did they stay, 

Or Iseult with her winsome grace? 

Could mighty Hector death delay, 45 

Or Caesar, high in pride of place? 

They from this earth have slipped away 

As sheaf from field, and left no trace. 

They are as though they never were, 

Of them are many wonders said, 50 

And it is pity for to hear 

How these were slain with tortures dread, 

And how alive they suffered here; 

Their heat is turned to cold instead, 

Thus doth the world but false appear, 55 

The foolish trust it, — lo! 'tis sped. 



124 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

For though a mighty man he were 

As Henry, England's king by birth, 

Though he as Absalom were fair, 

Whose peer lived not in all the earth, 60 

Yet of his pride he's soon stripped bare, 

At last he'll fetch not a herring's worth, 

Maid, if thou mak'st true love thy care 

I'll show. thee a love more true than earth. 

Ah! maiden sweet, if thou but knew 65 

All the high virtues of this knight! 

He is fair and bright of hue, 

Mild, with face of shining light, 

Meet to be loved and trusted too, 

Gracious, and wise beyond man's sight, 70 

Nor through him wilt thou ever rue, 

If thou but trust in his great might. 

He is the strongest in the land; 

As far as man can tell with mouth, 

All men lie beneath his hand, 75 

East, and West, and North, and South; 

Henry, King of Engelland, 

He holds of him and to him boweth 

His messenger, at his command, 

His love declares, his truth avow'th. 80 

Speak'st thou of buildings raised of old, 

Wrought by the wise king Solomon, 

Of jasper, sapphires, and fine gold, 

And of many another stone? 

His home is fairer by many fold 85 

Than I can tell to any one; 

'Tis promised, maid, to thee of old, 

If thou wilt take him for thine own. 



A LOVE LETTER 1 25 

It stands upon foundations sound, 

So built that they shall never fall; 90 

Nor miner sap them underground, 

Nor shock e'er shake the eternal wall; 

Cure for each wound therein is found, 

Bliss, joy, and song, fill all that hall. 

The joys that do therein abound 95 

Are thine, thou may'st possess them all. 

There friend from friend shall never part, 

There every man shall have his right; 

No hate is there, no angry heart, 

Nor any envy, pride or spite; 100 

But all shall with the angels play 

In peace and love in heavenly light. 

Are they not, maid, in a good way, 

Who love and serve our Lord aright? 

Him can no man ever see 105 

As He is in His great might, 

And not with the blessed be 

When he knows the Lord of light. 

With Him all is joy and glee, 

He is day without a night. no 

Will he not most happy be 

Who may abide with such a knight? 

This writing, maiden that I send, 

Open it, break seal and read; 

Wide unroll, its words attend, 115 

Learn thou by heart each part with speed. 

Then straight to other maidens wend 

And teach it them to meet their need; 

Whoso shall learn it to the end 

In sooth 'twill stand him in good stead. 120 



126 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

And when thou sittest sorrowing, 

Draw forth the scroll I send thee here, 

With sweet soft voice its message sing, 

And do its bidding with good cheer. 

To thee this does His greeting bring; 125 

Almighty God would have thee near; 

He bids thee come to His wedding, 

There where he sits in Heaven's high sphere. 



THE DEBATE OF THE BODY AND THE SOUL 

(13th Century) 

As once I lay in winter's night, 
Sunk deep in sleep before the day, 
Methought I saw a wondrous sight; 
Upon a bier a body lay. 

It once had been a wilful Knight, 5 

Scant service he to God did pay; 
Clean lost had he his lifes light, 
The ghost was out and must away. 

When the ghost it needs must go, 
It turned aside and near it stood; 10 

Beheld the body it came fro 
Most sorrowful in frightened mood. 
It said: "Woe! woe! and welawoe! 
Woe worth thy flesh, thy foule blood, 
Wretched body, why liest thou so 15 

That wert but now so wild and wode ? [passionate] 

"Thou that once wert wont to ride 
High on horseback in and out, 
Famed for prowess far and wide, 
As a lion fierce and proud, 20 



BODY AND SOUL 1 27 

Where is all thy mighty pride, 
And thy voice that rang so loud, 
Why liest thou stript whate'er betide, 
Stretched within that wretched shroud? 

"Where is now thy broidered weed, 25 

Thy pillows soft, thy sumptuous bed? 
Thy palfreys and thy battle-steed 
Which at thy side thy Squire led? 
Thy crying hawks of chosen breed, 
And the hounds that thou hast fed? 30 

Methinks, God recks not of thy need, 
For all thy friends are from thee fled. 

"Where are thy castles and thy towers, 
Thy chambers and thy stately halls, 
Painted with many-coloured flowers, 35 

And thy costly garments all? 
Thy downy quilts and covertures, 
Thy sandals and thy purple palls? 
Wretch! full dark is now thy bower, 
To-morrow thou therein shalt fall!" 40 

Now when the ghost with gruesome cheer [expression] 
Thus had made his mournful moan, 
The corpse, stretched stark upon the bier, — 
A ghastly thing thus left alone, — 
Its head and neck did strait uprear; 45 

As a sick thing it 'gan to groan, 
And said: "Where art thou now, my fere, [companion] 
My ghost, that quite art from me gone ? 

"God shaped thee in His image fair, 
And gave to thee both wit and skill; 50 

He trusted me unto thy care 
To guide according to thy will. 



128 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

In witchcrafts foul I had no share, 

Nor wist I what was good nor ill, 

But like dumb beast thy yoke I bare 55 

And as thou bad'st I must fulfill. 

" Placed thy pleasures to fulfill, 
Both at even and at morn, 
I was in thy keeping still 

From the time that thou wast born. 60 

Thou, that knewest good and ill, 
Surely should'st have judged beforn 
Of my pride, my foolish will; 
Now alone thou liest forlorn." 

The ghost it said: "Body, be still, 65 

Where learned'st thou this moral air? 
Givest thou me harsh words and ill 
And liest like swollen wine-skin there? 
Thinkest thou, wretch, though thou shalt fill 
With thy foul flesh a noisome lair, 70 

That from the deeds thou didest ill 
Thou shalt be freed, nor judgment bear? 

"Thinkest now thy rest to win 
Where thou liest rotting in the clay? 
Though thou be rotten bone and skin, 75 

And blowen with the wind away, 
Yet limb and joint thou shalt come in 
Again to me on doomesday, 
Together we shall pass within 
To Court, to take our bitter pay. 80 

"You to my sway did God commit, 
But when you thought on evil deed, 
Hard in your teeth you held the bit, 
And did all things that I forbede. 



BODY AND SOUL 1 29 

Sin you obeyed, you drew to it, 85 

To ease, and shame, and lust, and greed; 
I fought you hard with strength and wit, 
But aye you followed your own rede. 

"I bade you mind your spirit's need; 
But matins, mass, and evensong 90 

You put aside for other deed, 
And called them vain, with foolish tongue. 
To wood and field you chose to speed, 
Or run to Court to do men wrong; 
Except for pride or greater meed 95 

Small good you did your whole life long." 



The Body, answering, said its say: 
"O Soul! thou hast done wrong in this, 
All the blame on me to lay, 

Now thou hast lost the highest bliss. 100 

Where did I go, by wood or way, 
Where sat, or stood, or did amiss, 
But 'neath thine eye I went each day; 
Well knowest thou the truth of this. 



"I should have been but as the sheep, 105 

Or like the dumb and herded kine, 
That eat, and drink, and sprawl, and sleep, 
And passed my pain — like slaughtered swine; 
Gold had I never cared to keep, 

Nor known that water was not wine, no 

Nor been thrust down to hell's black deep, 
But for thee, — Soul, — the fault was thine." 



130 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

The ghost replied: "There is no doubt 
Thy part was always me to bare: 
Needs must this be, I was without 115 

Or hand or foot wert thou not there: 
Save as thou carriedst me about 
I could do naught, nor least act share; 
I must before thee bend devout, 
To do aught else I did not dare. 120 

"Of one woman born and bred, 
Body, thou and I were twain; 
Together fostered fair and fed 
Till thou couldst walk and speak thee plain; 
Thee gently, moved by love, I led, 125 

Nor dared I ever give thee pain. 
To lose thee was my sorest dread, 
Knowing I'd get no more again. 

"I saw you fair in flesh and blood, 
And all my love to you I gave; 130 

That you should thrive methought was good, 
Soft ease and rest I let you have; 
This wrought in you rebellious mood, 
You rushed to sin as impulse drave; 
To fight against you did no good 135 

You bore me with you as your slave. 

"Well warned wert thou of this before, 
And told we both should judgment have; 
All this you scorned as foolish lore, 
Yet watched thy kin go down to grave. 140 

Thou didst all that the world thee bade, 
Each thing thy eager flesh might crave, 
And I allowed it, (I was mad!), 
Thou wert the master, I the slave." 



BODY AND SOUL 131 

[The Body speaks] 145 

"Thinkest thou, Ghost, thou gainest aught 
To quit thee from thy blame withal, 
By saying that thou, so nobly wrought, 
Wast forced to serve me as my thrall? 
Nothing I did and nothing sought, 150 

Ne'er plundered, stole, ne'er sinned at all, 
But first in thee arose the thought. 
Abide it who abide it shall! 



"How wist I what was wrong or right, 
What choice had I by night or day, 155 

Save as thou brought'st it to my sight, 
Thou o'er whom wisdom should bear sway? 
Thus, trained by you in base delight, 
Companion of your pleasures gay, 
Then did I ill with all my might, 1C0 

Once more to have my wicked way. 

"But haddest thou, — Christ grant 'twere true, — 
Given me hunger, thirst, and cold, 
And taught me good that no good knew, 
W 7 hen I in evil was so bold, 165 

Then, what I learned in youth from you, 
I had held fast when I was old; 
You let me roam to North and South, 
And take my pleasures uncontrolled." 

Then wept the ghost most bitterly, 170 

"Body, alas, alas!" (it said). 
"That e'er of old I loved thee! 
Lost was the love I on thee stayed; 
Falsely you feigned a love for me, 
And me a house of glass you made; 175 



132 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

I gave you pleasures trustfully, 
You, traitor, still my trust betrayed. 



"No longer, Body, may I dwell, 
No longer stand to speak with thee; 
Now I hear the hell-hounds yell, 180 

And fiendes more than man may see; 
They come to fetch me down to hell, 
No whither may I from them flee; 
And thou shalt come with flesh and fell 
At doomesday to dwell with me." 185 

Almost before the words were said, 
That told it wist where it must go, 
Burst in at once in sudden raid 
A thousand devils and yet mo. 

And when they once had on him laid 190 

Their savage claws, they tare him so 
He was in torment, sore afraid, 
Tossed, tugged and tousled to and fro. 

For they were shaggy, shock-haired, tailed, 
With bulgy bumps upon the back, 195 

Their claws were sharp, they were long-nailed, 
No limb but showed some hideous lack. 
The ghost was right and left assailed 
By many a devil foul and black; 
Crying for mercy naught availed 200 

When God his vengeance due must take. 



Instead of colt for it to ride, 
Straightway a cursed devil came, 
That grosly grinned and yawne'd wide 205 



BODY AND SOUL 133 

Out from his throat flared tongues of flame. 

The saddle on his back and side 

Was stuck with pikes to pierce and maim, 

Like hekel was it to bestride, 

Each pike it glowed like scorching flame. 210 

Upon that saddle was he slung, 
As though to ride in tournament; 
A hundred devils on him hung, 
Hither and thither him they sent; 
He with hot spears was pierced and stung, 215 

And sore with hooks of iron rent; 
At every stroke the sparkles sprung 
As they from blazing brand were sent. 

When he the ride had ta'en at last, 
Fast to that fearful saddle bound, 220 

As hunted fox he down was cast, 
The worrying hell-hounds close him round, 
They rend him, trembling and aghast, 
And harry him towards hell's dark bound; 
A man might trace the way they passed 225 

By blood-stains on the trampled ground. 

They bid him then his horn to blow, 
To urge on Bauston and Bevis, 
His hounds well wont his call to know, 
For they would shortly sound the pris. [s. note] 230 
A hundred devils, in a row, 
Drag him with ropes toward the abyss, 
The loathly flames are seen below, 
The mouth of hell it was, I wis. 

When once that dread abode is won, 235 

The fiends set up so loud a yell 
That earth it opens up anon; 



134 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

Smother and smoke rise from that cell, 

Both of foul pitch and of brimstone, 

Men five miles off can smell that smell; 240 

Woe grips and holds that wretched one 

Who scents from far that scent of hell. 

The foule fiends, with eager grin, 
Seize on the soul, and, whirling it, 
With might and main they hurl it in, 245 

Down, down, into the devil's pit, 
Then, they themselves plunge straight therein, 
To darkness with no sunshine lit, 
Earth closes on that house of sin, 
The dungeon-doors shut fast on it. 250 

When they had gone, that loathsome brood, 
To hell's black pit, ere it was day, 
On every hair the sweat-drops stood 
For fright and fear as there I lay: 
To Jesus Christ, in softened mood, 255 

Yearning I called, — expecting aye 
That those fierce fiends so hot and lewd, 
Would come to carry me away. 

I thought on Him who suffered death, 
Who unto man such mercy bore, 260 

Who had me helped since I drew breath, 
With sin beset behind, before! 
I charge you, ere it be too late, 
To shrive you and repent you sore; 
For sin was never sinned so great 265 

That Christ's wide mercy was not more. 



THE PEARL 135 

THE PEARL 

(About 1370) 
(Author unknown) 



Pearl, most meet for the Master's paye, [delight, pleasure] 

Set safe in golden glory clear! 

Out of the East, I surely say, 

Found I never her precious peer, 

So round, so radiant in array, 5 

So small, so smooth her shape, and fair, 

Whenever I judged of jewels gay 

I set her singly in singlere. [apart] 

Alas! I lost her in an arbere: [arbor] 

Through grass to ground she from me got. 10 

I droop, death-stricken by love-daungere [bondage] 
Of my precious pearl withouten spot 



Since, in that spot she from me sprung 

Oft have I waited, wishing that weal [bliss] 

That once was wont dispel my wrong, 15 

Lift up my lot, my spirit heal. 

But now, struck through with sorrows strong, 

Her loss my burning breast must feel. 

Yet heard I never so sweet a song 

As the still hour let to me steal. 20 

Strange thoughts their shapes but half reveal, 
As I muse on her colours clad in clay. 
O mould! thou marrest a wondrous jewel, 
My precious pearl that hath slipped away. 



136 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

III 

Lo! their sweet spices needs must spread 25 

When so much wealth to earth has run; 

Flowers golden, blue, and red, 

Shine full sheen against the sun. 

Never may fruit and flower fade 

Where my pearl sank down in the earth-mould dun; 30 

For each grass must grow from seed-grain dead, 

No wheat were else for harvest won; 

From good each good is aye begun; 

So precious a seed must perish not; 

Spices must spring from this chosen one, 35 

From this precious pearl without a spot. 



IV 



To this spot that I in speech expoun [declare] 

I entered, in that arbour green, 

In August, in a high sesoun, 

When corn is cut with sickle keen. 40 

On a mound where once my pearl rolled down 

Fell shadows of flowers shining and sheen, — 

Gillyfleur, ginger, and gromyloun, 

And peonies powdered all between. 

If it were seemly but to be seen, 45 

Still sweeter the scent it gave, I wot, 

Where dwells that blessed one I ween, 

My precious pearl without a spot. 



Prone in that place, wild hands I pressed, 

Clutched as with freezing cold, I fought; 50 

Grief grew to tumult in my breast, 



THE PEARL 137 

Reason nor calm, nor comfort brought. 

I plained my pearl that earth possessed 

And vainly strove with struggling thought. 

Though Christ's compassion offered rest, 55 

My wretched will against it wrought. 
I fell upon the flowery ground, 
Sweet odours o'er my senses streamed, 
Till, sunk in depths of sleep profound, 
About my spotless pearl I dreamed. 60 



VI 



From thence my soul sprang far in space, 
My body on ground abode in sweven. [sleep] 

My ghost is gone by Goddes grace, 
Through ways unknown and wondrous driven. 
I wist not in this world the place, 65 

But I felt me rapt past great rocks riven: 
Towards a forest I turned my face 
Where splendid cliffs soared high to heaven. 
Their light no man may well believen, 
For a glistering glory from them gleamed; 70 

The loom no silks has ever given 
With colours so clear as from them streamed. 



VII 



Adorned was each hilly side 

With christal cliffs of clearest kind. 

The forests fair about them bide 75 

With tree-bolls blue as blue of Ind; 

Their leaves, like silver's burnished pride, 

A-flutter in the fragrant wind 

With glinting gleams show glorified, 



138 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

In shimmering splendors half-defined. 80 

The gravel, that each foot may grind, 
Was precious pearl of Orient, 
Sunlight itself seemed dull and blind 
Beside that land of wonderment. 



The splendor of those hill-sides rare 85 

Made my glad heart its grief forgete; 

The fruits so fresh of fragrance were 

I was fed-full with odours sweet. 

Birds flitted through that forest fair 

Of flaming hues, both small and grete; 90 

No citole's string nor gittermere [zitern- player] 

Their mirthful music might repeat. 

For, when these birds their winges beat, 

Then sing they all with sweet concent. 

No man knows rapture so complete 95 

As sight and sound together lent. 



rx. 



The woods are rich in radiant guise 

Where'er by Fortune led, I fare, 

And shining glories glad mine eyes, 

That no man may with tongue declare. 100 

I wander on in happy wise, 

For steepest cliff seems harmless there. 

The farther I fared the fairer 'gan rise 

Meads bright with bloom, and spice, and pear, 

Green-bordered brooks, and river fair 105 

Its banks as thread of finest gold. 

Win I at last to a water rare; — 

Dear Lord! 'twas lovely to behold. 



THE PEARL 1 39 



The margent of that wondrous deep 

Was shining bank of beryl bright. no 

Sweetly the sliding waters sweep, 

With a murmurous music they take their flight. 

The bottom gleaming stones doth keep, 

That glow through the lucent depths like light, 

Or shining stars, which while men sleep 115 

Wink in the welkin on Winter's night. 

Each shining stone that shimmered to sight 

Was sapphire, or some jewel rare, 

They lit the deep with living might, 

So clear that lovely land and fair. 120 



XI 



The rich array of down and dales, 

Of wood and water and wide plains, 

Bred in me bliss, abated bales, 

Released my stress, destroyed my pains. 

Along the stream that strongly hales [flows} 125 

All rapt I roved, brimfull my brains. 

The farther I followed those wat'ry vales 

The greater the joy at my glad heart strains. 
Though Fortune's gifts no force constrains, 
Lend she solace or sorrows sore, 130 

The wight who once her favour gains 
Strives ever to win more and more. 



Far more of bliss glowed in such guise 

Than I could tell if time I had; 

For mortal heart may not suffice 135 



140 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

For tenth part of that rapture glad. 

I thought in truth that Paradise 

Lay just beyond those bright banks brade. [broad] 

The waters, methought, as bounds arise 

Twixt garden and garden, between them made. 140 

Beyond the brook, by slope and shade, 
Stands the Holy City, beyond the shore. 
But the water was deep, I durst not wade, 
And ever my longing grew more and more. 



More and more, and yet much mair 145 

I longed beyond that stream to stand; 

For if 'twas fair where I did fare 

Far fairer gleamed that farther land. 

Stumbling I strove, looked here and there 

To find a ford, on every hand; 150 

But of greater perils I grew aware 

The longer I searched that shining strand. 

And yet, it seemed I must burst the band, 
So strong was the call of that distant shore. 
When lo! the sight mine eyes next scanned 155 

Stirred my strained spirit more and more. 



XIV 



A marvel 'gan my ghost confound; 

I saw, beyond that merry mere, 

A cliff, from whose clear depths profound 

Streamed lights that lit the golden air. 160 

Beneath, a child sate on the ground, 

A maid of mien full debonair; 

White, shining garments girt her round; — 

I knew, — I had seen her other-where. 



THE PEARL I 41 

As gold in threads that men may shear, 165 

So sheen she shone upon that shore. 
The longer I looked upon her there 
The surer I knew her, more and more. 



xv 



And as I fed on her fair face, 

And searched her child-like figure o'er, 170 

Pure gladness did my soul embrace 

That I had lacked so long before. 

To call her would I fain find grace, 

But stunned I stood, bewildered sore; 

I saw her in so strange a place 175 

That dazed, the sight no meaning bore. 

She lifts her brow, well-known of yore, 

Her face as smooth as ivory; 

My wild dismay grows more and more, 

My soul is stung with what I see. 180 



Stronger than longing, fear arose; 

I stood quite still and durst not call; 

Wide-eyed I wait, my lips I close, 

As mute as hooded hawk in hall. 

That sight so strange, so spectral rose, 185 

I feared the end that might befall; 

The dread lest she escape me grows, 

Or vanish ere I could forestall. 

Then she, whose shining lightened all, 

So soft, so smooth, so pure, so slight, 190 

Rose up robed in array royal, 

A pearl, in precious pearl es dight. 



142 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

XVII 

Pearls that would grace a kingly power, 

A man might there by grace have seen, 

When fresh and fair as lily-flower, 195 

Adown the shore she stepped, I ween. 

Her linen robe, a royal dower, 

Flowed free; its lustrous borders been 

Purfled with pearls: before that hour 

Such sight mine eyes had never seen. 200 

Her flowing sleeve-laps showed full sheen 
With pearls, in double border dight: 
Her kirtle, where it showed between, 
With precious pearls gleamed pure and bright. 



xx 



All rich in pearls that rare one bright 205 

Drew near the shore beyond the flood; 

From here to Greece no gladder wight 

Than I, when by the brink she stood. 

Nearer than niece or aunt, of right 

I found in her my joy and good. 210 

Then low she bowed her figure slight, 

Cast by her crown in happy mood, 

And as I looked, I understood 

And heard her greet me full of grace. 

Dear Lord! who me with life endued, 215 

'Twas worth it all to see her face. 



XXI 



"O Pearl," I cried, "in pearles dight, 

Art thou that pearl that I have plained [bewailed\ 



THE PEARL 1 43 

Much missed by me alone, at night? 

What longing have I long sustained 220 

Since into grass you slipped from sight. 

Pensive, oppressed, I pine sore pained, 

While you, at rest in realm of light, 

In Paradise a home have gained. 

What Weird has thither my gem constrained, [fate] 
And brought me this grief and great daungere! 226 
Since we in twain were torn and twained, 
I have been a joyless jeweler." 



XXII 



That jewel there, with jewels graced, 

Lifted her face with eyes of grey, 230 

Her crown of orient pearl replaced, 

And grave and slow did sweetly say: — 

"Sir, you mistake and speak in haste 

To say your pearl is all away; 

In coffer is it safely placed. 235 

Shut safe within this garden gay, 
To dwell forever there, and play 
Where sin and sorrow come never near, 
This spot were thy treasure house, parfay, 
If thou wert a gentle jeweler. 



"But jeweler gentle, if thou dost give 240 

Thy joy for a gem thou deemed'st dear, 

In sooth thou dost but thyself deceive, 

Vexed in vain with a foolish fear. 

For you lost but a rose, you may well believe, 

That must flower and fade with the fading year, 245 

Yet so wondrous a dust did that rose receive 

That it proved a pearl in this shining sphere. 



144 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

Though thou called'st thy Weird a thief, 'tis clear 
From nought it has gained the great treasure; 
To blame the hand that has helped thee here 251 
Shows thee a thankless jeweler." 



Drawn by delight of eye and ear, 

My yearning mood to madness grows; 

I would be with my dear one there, 

Though swift the severing current flows. 255 

Nothing will harm me if on I fare, 

Or lame me, methought, by baffling blows; 

If I only the plunge in the stream can dare 

I will swim the space though the waves oppose, 

Or die in the deed. Yet a thought arose 260 

Ere I plunged perverse in that water chill, 
That stilled my impatience and brought repose 
For I know it was not my Prince's will. 



XXV 



It pleased Him not that I should break 

Through those marvellous marches unafraid, 265 

As rash and rude my course I take 

My daring onset is sudden stayed: 

For as to the brink my way I make 

With a start I find mv vision fade, 

And lo! in that arbour fair I wake, 270 

My head on that selfsame hillock laid 

On that spot where my pearl into earth once strayed. 

Awe-strucken, silent, I sate alone 

Then sighing deep to myself I said: 

"May the Prince's will in all be done." 275 



PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 1 45 

Htlltam ffianglaub 

(About 1 332-1 400) 
PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 

PROLOGUE 

In the season of summer, when soft was the sunne 

I clad myself coarsely in a cloak as a shepherd; 

In habit as an hermit unholy of workes, 

Went I wide in this world wonders to heare, 

And on a May morning on Malverne hilles, 5 

A marvel amazed me, of magic methought. 

I was weary, for-wandered, and went me to reste 

Under a broad bank, by a burn-side, 

And as I lay and leaned, and looked in the waters, 

I slumbered in a sleeping, it sounded so merry. 10 

Then did I dream there a dream full of wonder, 

That I was in a wilderness, wist I not where. 

As I looked to the Eastward a-loft to the sunne, 

I saw set on a summit a seemly tower; 

A deep dale beneath and a dungeon thereinne, 15 

With deep ditches and dark, and dreadful to sight. 

A fair field full of folk found I there between them, 

With all manner of men the mean and the riche, 

Working and wandering as the world asketh. 

Some put them to ploughing, playing full seldom, 20 

In setting and sowing swinking full hard ['oiling] 

And winning what wasters with gluttony destroy. 

And some put to pride, appareled them thereafter 
In fancies of fashion finely arrayed. 

To prayers and to penance put themselves many, 25 

All for love of our Lord living full strict, 



146 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

In the hope for to have heavenly blisse; 

As anchorets and hermits that hold them in their celles, 

In the world never wishing to wander about, 

Or with bounteous abundance their bodies to please. 30 

And some chose to chaffer, their chances to better, 
For it seems to our sight that such men are most thriving. 
And some to make merry, as minstrels are able, 
And get gold with their glees, guiltless I deem them. 
But jesters and jugglers, Judas's children, 35 

Found out false fantasies and feigned themselves foolish. 
Yet have wit at their will to work were they willing. 
That Paul preacheth of them prove now I dare not. 
Qui loquitur tur piloquium is Lucifer's slave. 

There bidders and beggars right busily wandered, 40 

Their bags and their bellies with bread fully crammed, 
There feigned want of food, and fought o'er the ale-cups, 
In gluttony, God wot, go they to bedde, 
And rise up with ribaldry, these Robert's men. [vagabonds] 
Sleeping and slothfulness pursueth them ever 45 

Pilgrims and palmers plighted them together 
To seek for Saint James and the saintes at Rome, 
Went forth in their way with many wise stories, 
And had leave for to lie, all their life after. 
I saw some that said they had sought out the saintes; 50 
With tongues tempered to lie in each tale that they tolde, 
More than to say sooth it seemed by their speech. 
Hermits in an heap, with hooked staves 
To Walsingham wended, — their wenches came after. 
Great lubbers and lazy that loth were to swinke, 55 

Clothed them in copes to be counted as "brethren", 
In habit of hermit their ease for to have. 

I found there the friars of all the four orders, 
They preached to the people to profit themselves, 
Glossing the Gospel as was their good pleasure. 60 

For, coveting copes, they construed as they would. 
For many of these master-friars may dress as it likes them, 



PIERS THE PLOUGHMAN 147 

For their money and merchandise marchen together, 

For since Charity hath been chapman and chief to shrive lordes 

Many ferlies have fallen in a few yeares [marvels] 65 

If Holy Church and they hold not better together, 

The most mischief on mold is mounting full fast, [earth] 

There preached a Pardoner, a priest as he were, 
And brought forth a Bull with the Bishopes seales, 
And said that himself might assoilen them alle [pardon] 70 
Of falseness in fasting, and vows they had broken. 
The unlettered believed him and liked well his wordes, 
Coming up to him kneeling and kissing his Bulles, 
Then he banged them with his brevet and bleared their eyen 

[cheated them] 

Thus give they their gold gluttons to help. 75 

Were the Bishop but blessed and worth both his eares, 

He would send not his seal for deceiving the people. 

But 'tis not at the Bishop that the boy preaches, 

For Pardoner and priest part between them the silver, 

And the poor of the parish may have what is left. 80 

Parsons and parish-priests plained to the Bishop, 
As their parishes were poor since the pestilence time, 
To have licence and leave at London to dwelle, 
And they sing thus for simony,- — for silver is sweet. 

Bishops and bachelors both masters and doctors, 85 

That hold cures under Christ and have crowning [parishes] 
in token [tonsured crowns] 

And sign that they should shrive their parishioners; 
And preach and to pray for them, and the poor feede, 
Are living in London, in Lent- time and other. 
Some are serving the King, and his silver are taking, 90 

In Exchequer and Chancery claiming his debtes 
Due from wards in the wardmote, both waifs and estrays, 
And some serve as servants the lords and the ladies, 



148 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

And instead of stewards they sit and condemn. 94 

Their mass and their matins and most of the hours 
Are done undevoutly; dread is at the last 
That Christ in His Council should curse very many. [Doomsday] 

There hovered an hundred in hoodes of silke, 
Sergeants it seemed that served at the barre, 
Pleading for pennies and poundes the laws, 100 

And naught for love of our Lord unloose their lips ones, [once] 
Better measure the mist on Malverne's hilles, 
Than get a mum from these mouthes till money be showed. 

Baron and burgesses and bond-men also, 
I saw there assembled, as ye shall hear after. 105 

Bakers and brewers and butchers a-many, 
And weavers of woolens and weavers of linen, 
Tailors and tanners, and toilers of earth, 
Masons and miners and many a craft. 
Of all living labourers leaped some of each kind, no 

As ditchers and delvers that do their deeds idle, 
And drag out the long day with "Dieu vous sauve, Dame," 
Cooks and their knaves cried out "hote pies, hote! 
Good gris and geese, — goi dine, — goi!" [pigs] 

And unto them Taverners tolde the same, 115 

"White wine of Oseye, and red wine of Gascoigne [Alsace] 
Of the Rhine and of Rochelle the roast to defy!" 
And this I saw sleeping and seven times more. 



THE VISION 

(From Passus I.) 

What this mountain be-meaneth, and this dark dale, 

And this field full of folk, fair shall I show you. 120 

A Lady most lively in linen y-clothed, 

Came down from the cliff and cleped me fair [spoke kindly to mc\ 



THE VISION 149 

And saide, "Son! sleepest thou? see'st thou this people, 
How busy they be all bestirred in a maze? 
The most part of the people that pass now on earthe, 125 
If they have the world's worship, they wish for no better, 
Other Heaven than here, hold they as nothing." 
I was feared of her face, fair though she were, 
And said, "Merci, Madame, what things may this meane?" 
"The tower on the top," quoth she, "truth is thereinne, 130 
And would that you wrought as His word teacheth 
For He is Father of faith and formed you alle, 
Both your flesh and your face and gave you fine wittes 
To worship Him therewith the while ye are here." 



In my wit then I wondered what woman it were, 135 

That such wise wordes of Holy Writ showed, 
And besought for His sake ere thence she departed, 
She would tell me title who taught me so fair. 
"Holy Church am I," quoth she, "thou should'st me knowe, 
I fostered thee first and thy faith to thee taughte, 140 

And provided thy vows, my voice to obey, 
And loyally love me, the while thy life dureth. 
Then I crouched on my knees and cried for her grace, 
And prayed her piteously pray for my sinnes, 
And kindly to teach me on Christ to believe, 145 

That His will I might work here, that wrought me a man. 
"Teach me no treasure, but tell me this only, 
How my soul I may save, — you that Saint are y-holden!" 

"When all treasures are tried," quoth she, "Truth is the 
beste; 
On Deus Caritas I do it to deal with thee truly, 150 

'Tis desire as dear-worth as dear God Himselfe 
Who is true in his tongue, and telleth naught else, 
And the works doth withal and wills no man ille, 
He is good by the Gospel on ground and above, 
And is like to our Lord, by Sainte Luke's wordes. 155 



150 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

The clerkes that know this should ken it aboute [teach] 
For Christians proclaim it, and unchristians also." 

Thus I saw surely, by sight of the scriptures, 
When all treasures are tried, that Truth is the beste. 

"It is knowledge by nature," quoth she, "that enables my 
herte 160 

For to love thy Lord liefer than thyselfe. 
No deadly sinne to do, die though thou shouldest, 
This I trowe be Truth; who can teach thee aught better, 
Look thou suffer it to speak and so teach it after, 
For this witnesseth His word, work thou thereafter, 165 

For truth telleth that Love is triacle of Heaven [healing] 
No sin is seen in Him who useth that cure 
And who wrought all His works with Love as He listed; 
As most heavenly and mightiest to Moses He taught it, 
The plant of all peace and most precious of virtues. 

For these are the wordes writ down in the Gospel, 170 

Date et dabitur vobis, for I deal you alle 

Your grace and good hap, your wealth for to winne, 

And so know I, by nature, of that which you render. 

This the lock is of Love, that lets out my grace 

To comfort the care-full, encumbered with sinning. 175 

Love is the liefest thing that our Lord asketh 

And eke the strait gate that goeth to Heaven. 



OWL AND NIGHTINGALE 151 

THE OWL AND THE NIGHTINGALE 

(About 1250) 

Once within a summer's dale, 

In a very secret vale, 

Heard I 'gainst each other rail 

Hoary Owl and Nightingale. 

That strife was stiff and stark and strong, 5 

Now 'twas soft, now loud it rung, 

And each bird would the other flout, 

And all the evil mood let out; 

And each said of the other's way 

The very worst she knew to say; 10 

Indeed, about each other's song 

The strife they waged was very strong 

The Nightingale began the speech 
From her corner in a beech: 

She sat upon a pleasant bough, 15 

Blossoms about there were enow, 
Where in a thick and lonely hedge, 
Mingled soft shoots and greenest sedge. 
She, gladdened by the bloomy sprays, 
Varied her song in many ways. 20 

Rather it seemed the joy I heard 
Of harp or pipe than song of bird. 
Such strains, methought, must rather float 
From harp or pipe than feathered throat. 
Then, from a trunk that stood hard-by, 25 

The Owl in turn made her reply, 
O'er it the ivy grew apace; 
There made the Owl her dwelling-place. 

The Nightingale, who saw her plain, 
Surveyed the bird with high disdain, 30 

Filled with contempt she viewed the Owl, 



152 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

Whom all men loathsome deem and foul. 

"Monster," she cried, "take wings and flee, 

I am the worse for sight of thee, 

Truly, at thy black looks of yore 35 

Full oft my song I've given o'er; 

My tongue grows weak, my courage flies 

When you appear before mine eyes, 

I'm more inclined to spit than sing 

At sound of thy harsh sputtering." 40 

The Owl abode till it grew late. 
Eve came, she could no longer wait; 
Her heart began to swell and strain 
Till scarce she could her breath contain. 
Half choked with rage, these words she flung: 45 
"What think'st thou now about my song? 
Think'st thou in song I have no skill 
Merely because I cannot trill? 
Often to wrath thou movest me, 
And dost abuse me shamefully. 50 

If in my claws I held thee fast, — 
And so, mayhap, I shall at last, — 
And thou wert down from off thy spray 
Then should'st thou sing another way." 

Then made the Nightingale reply: 55 

"If I avoid the open sky, 
And shield myself in places bare, 
Nothing for all thy threats I care; 
While in my hedge secure I sit, 
I reck not of your threats a whit. 60 

I know you cruel to devour 
All helpless things within your power, 
Wreaking your wrath in evil way 
On smaller birds where'er you may. 
Hated of all the feathered rout, 65 

The birds combine to drive you out, 
Shrieking and scolding after you, 



OWL AND NIGHTINGALE 1 53 

They hard upon your flight pursue. 

The tit-mouse, if she had her will, 

Would tease you and would work you ill. 70 

Hateful to look upon thou art 

In many ways, and every part; 

Thy body's short, thy neck is small, 

Thy head is greater far than all; 

Thine eyes coal-black are staring wide 75 

As though with woad they had been dyed; 

You stare as though you'd like to bite 

Each thing your cruel claws could smite; 

Just like an awl that has been crooked, 

Your bill is stiff and sharp and hooked, 80 

With it you hoot both oft and long, 

This passes with you for a song. 

You threaten me, longing to clasp 

My flesh and crush me in your grasp; 

More fit for thee would be a frog, 85 

That sits beneath the mill-wheel's cog, 

Or snails, and mice, and creatures foul, — 

Such are the sort fit for an Owl. 

By day you sit, by night take wing, 

Knowing you are an eerie thing; 90 

That thou art loathsome and unclean 

From thine own nest is plainly seen, 

And also by thy foul young brood 

Which thou dost feed on foulest food." 

After a prolonged controversy, the Nightingale speaks again: 

"Owl," she said, "why dost thou so? 95 

Thou sing'st in winter welawo! 

Thou sing'st as doth a hen in snow, 

And all she sings is but for woe: 

Thou sing'st in winter's wrath and gloom, 

In summer thou art ever dumb. 100 



154 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

It is but for thy foolish spite 

That thou with us canst not be bright; 

For thee consuming envy burns 

When to the land our bliss returns. 

Thou'rt like some cross-grained, crabbed wight, 105 

Who turns black looks on each delight, 

Ready to grudge it, and to lower 

If men are happy for an hour; 

He wishes rather to espy 

The tears of grief in each man's eye, no 

Let the mob fight, he does not care 

Though each man pulls the other's hair. 

E'en so thou dost upon thy side, 

Or when the snow lies thick and wide, 

And every creature has his sorrow, 115 

Thou sing'st from night-fall till the morrow. 

But I, all bliss with me doth wake, 

Each heart is gladder for my sake, 

All live in joy when I am here, 

All wait for me to reappear. 120 

The blossom 'gins to spring and sprede 

Upon the tree and on the mede, 

The lily, with her face of snow, 

Welcometh me, as well you know, 

And bids me, with her aspect fair, 125 

To fly to her, and greet her there. 

So too, with ruddy face, the rose, 

That from the thorny briar grows, 

Bids me to sing in bush and grove, 

A joyous carol for her love." 130 



ORMULUM 155 

iSntert manning, nf Irnnne 

IN PRAISE OF WOMAN 

(From Handlyng Synne, about 1303) 

Nothing is to man so dear 
As woman's love in good manere. 
A good woman is manes bliss, 
When her love right and steadfast is. 
No solace is there 'neath the sky, 5 

Of all that man may name or try, 
That man to joy so greatly moves 
As a good woman that truly loves. 
Nor dearer is none in all God's herd 
Than a chaste woman with lovely Word. 10 



(Srm 

ORMULUM 

(About 12 15-1220) 

Now, brother Walter, brother mine 

After the fleshes kind, 
And brother mine in Christendom 

Through baptism and through truth, 
And brother mine eke in God's house, 

Once more, in a third way, 
Since that we two have taken both 

One book of rules to follow. 



156 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

Under the canons' rank and life 

So as Saint Austin set; 10 

I now have done even as thou bad'st, 

Forwarding to thy will, 
I now have turned into English 

The Gospel's holy lore, 
After that little wit that me 15 

My Lord and God has lent. 
Thou thoughtest how that it might well 

To mickle profit turn, 
If English folk, for love of Christ, 

It readily would learn 20 

And follow it, fulfilling it 

With thought, with word, with deed, 
And therefore yearnedst thou that I 

This work for thee should work; 
And I have forwarded it for thee, 25 

And all through help of Christ. 



CURSOR MUNDI 

(Author unknown) 
(About 1320-1325) 

THE PROLOGUE 

Man yearneth rimes for to hear, 
And romances of strange mattere, 
Of Alisaundere the conquerour, 
Of Julius Caesar the emperour, 
Of Greece and Troy the strange strife 
Where many thousand lost their life; 
Of Brut, that hero bold of hand, 



CURSOR MUNDI 



157 



First conquerour of Engleland; 

Of King Arthour that was so rike [mighty] 

Whom no one in his time was like; 10 

Of wonders that his knights befell 

Adventures many as I've heard tell, 

As Gawain, Kay, and others stable 

For they were men of the Round Table; 

How Charles and Roland waged their fight, 15 

With Sarcens they no troth would plight; 

Of Tristrem and his dear Ysote, 

How he for her became a sote; [madman] 

Of Joneck and of Ysambrase, 

Of Youvine and of Amadase, 20 

Stories also of sundry things, 

Of princes, prelates, and of kings, 

Many songs of storied rime, 

English, Frankish, and Latine; 

To read and hear each one is prest 25 

Of whatsoe'er he likes the best. 

The wise man will of wisdom hear, 

The fool to folly draws him near; 

The wrong to hear of right is loath, 

And pride with buxomness is wroth. [humility] 30 



But by the fruit the wise may see 
Of what vertu is every tree. 
All sorts of fruit that man shall find 
Must draw from out the root their kind; 
From goodly pear-trees come good pears, 
Worse tree, the worse the fruit it bears. 
That I should speak from this same tree 
Betokens, man, both me and thee; 
This fruit betokens all our deeds, 
Both good and ill who rightly reads. 
Our dedes in our hearts take root, 



35 



40 



15S FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

Whether they be for bale or boot; 
For by the thing man draweth unto 
For good or ill men shall him know. 

All this world, ere I have done, 45 

With Christ's help shall I over-run, 

And tell some stories principal, 

For no man may relate them all. 

But since no work may long endure 

That stands not on foundation sure, 50 

This same work, therefore, shall I found 

Upon a wondrous, steadfast, ground; 

That is the Holy Trinity 

That all has wrought with His beauty. 

Unto Him first I turn my face, 55 

And then His handywork I'll trace: 

Of the angels first that fell, 

And next I will of Adam tell, 

Of his offspring and of Noe, 

And somewhat of his sonnes three; 60 

Of Abraham and of Isaac, 

That holy were withouten make, [without an equal] 

After shall I tell to you 

Of Jacob and of Esau too; 

Then should there be thereafter told 65 

How that Joseph was bought and sold; 

How Moses 'midst the Jews arose, 

That Goddes folk to lead them chose; 

How God the law to him did give 

By which the Jewish folk should live. 70 

Of Saul the king, and David too 

How he Goliath fought and slew; 

And next of Solomon the Wise, 

How craftily he did justice; 

How Christ came down through prophecy, 75 

And how He came His folk to buy. 



CURSOR MUNPI 159 

The author next goes on to enumerate various other matters 
of which he proposes to treat, such as the birth of Christ, the 
destruction of the innocents, the flight into Egypt, and so on 
through the gospel story. After this outline of the general plan 
and scope of his work he concludes his prologue as follows: — 

These are the subjects put in place 

I think within this book to trace; 

Speaking but shortly of each deed, 

For there are many tales to speed. 80 

Useful, methinks, it were to man 

To know himself how he began; 

How he at first was born and bred, 

How o'er the earth his offspring spread; 

Both of the first and of the last, 85 

And in what course this world is past. 

Those things that Holy Church doth state 

In this same book I now translate. 

In English tongue 'tis all made clear 

For love of all the English here; 90 

English folk of Engeland, 

For the commons to understand. 

French rimes are there in this land 

To be found on every hand; 

French is wrought for Frankish man, 95 

What is for him that no French can? 

The nation of England old 

The Englishmen in common hold; 

The speech that man with most may speed 

Must be the speech that men most need. 100 

Seldom was by any chance 

Praised the English tongue in France; 

Do we the same to their language 

Methinks we do them no outrage. 

To unlearned Englishman I spell, 105 

That understandeth what I tell, 



160 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

And specially I those address 

That all their lives in idleness 

On trifles waste and beggars' lies, 

That they beware the same, and wise no 

Somewhat unto that thing to tend 

And all their way with might amend. 

Ill have they who in spending spend, 

And find no fruit thereof at end. 



Now from this prologue we will blinne [cease] 115 

And in Christ's name our book begin: 

Cursor oWorld men ought it call, 

For almost it o'er runs it all. 

Take we our beginning than [then] 

From Him who all the world began. 120 



Sirljarh Soil? 

(About 1300-1349) 
THE PRICK OF CONSCIENCE 

(About 1340) 



All manner of joyes are in that stede: 
There is life without any death; 
And there is youth without any eild; [age] 
And there is all kind of wealth to wield; 
And there is rest without any travail; 
And there is all good that never shall fail; 
And there is peace without any strife; 
And there is all manner of liking of life; 



SONGS AND BALLADS l6l 

And there is aye summer full bright to see, 

And never more winter in that countrie: 10 

And there is more worship and honour, 

Than ever had king or emperour 

And there is great melody of angels' song, 

And there is praising them among: 

And there is all manner friendship that may be, 15 

And there is ever perfect love and charitie. 

And there is wisdom without foil)', 

And there is honesty without villany. 

All these a man may joys of Heaven call: 

But yet the most sovereign joy of all 20 

Is sight of Goddes brighte face, 

In whom resteth all manner grace. 



III. SONGS AND BALLADS 

CANUTE'S SONG 

Sweetly sang the monks in Ely 
When Canute the king rowed by! 
"Row, Knights, near the land 
And hear the monks' sweet song." 

CUCKOO SONG 

(About 1250) 

Summer is a-coming in, 

Sing loud Cuckoo! 
Groweth seed, and bloweth mead 
And springeth the woode noo 

Sing Cuckoo! 



162 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

Ewe bleateth after lamb, 

Lows for her calf coo; [cv 

Bullock sterteth, buck verteth, 

Merry sing Cuckoo! 

Cuckoo, Cuckoo, well sing'st thou Cuckoo: 

So cease thou never noo. 
Sing Cuckoo, noo, sing Cuckoo! 



SPRING SONG 

(About 1300) 

Spring is come to town with love 
With blossom and with bird in grove, 

That all this bliss now bringeth. 
There are daisies in the dales; 
Notes full sweet of nightingales; 5 

Each bird song singeth. 
The throstlecock out-sings them all; 
Away is fled the Winter's thrall, 

When woodrow springeth. 
Then chanting birds in wondrous throng 10 

Thrill out their joy the glades among 

Till all the woodland ringeth. 

The crimson rose is seen, 
New leaves of tender green 

With good-will grow, 15 

The moon shines white and clear, 
Fennel and Thyme are here, 

Fair lilies blow. 
Their mates the wild drakes find, 
Each creature seeks his kind. 20 

As stream that trickles slow, 



SONGS AND BALLADS 1 63 

We plain when life is drear, 
For cruel love the tear 
Unchecked must flow. 

The moon sends forth her light, 25 

The goodly sun shines bright, 

And birds sing well. 
Dews drench the soft young grass, 
And whispering lovers pass, 

Their tale to tell; 30 

Snakes woo beneath the clod, 
Women grow wondrous proud 

On field and fell. 
If one shall say me no 
Spring joy I will forgo 35 

And banished dwell. 



SONG 

Trolly, lolly, loly, lo, 

Syng troly, lolo, lo. 

My love is to the grene wode gone, 

Now after will I go: 

Syng trolly, loly, lo, lo, ly, lo. 



SONG 

Merry it is while summer lasts 

With small birds' song; 
But now draw nigh the windy blasts 

And weather strong. 
Ay, ay, but this night is long. 
And I with abounding wrong 
Keep sorrow, moans and fasts. 



164 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

WINTER SONG 

(About 1300) 

Winter wakeneth all my care; 
Leaves are few and branches bare; 
Oft I sigh and mourn full sair, 

When there cometh to my thought 
All the world's joy, how it all goes to nought. 5 

Now it is, now no more seen; 
Gone as it had never been, 
Many men say truth, I ween, 

That all goes by God's will. 
We all must surely die, though it seem ill. 10 

All that green that graced the year, 
Now is dying, brown and sere. 
Jesus, let thy help be near 

And shield us now from hell. 
For I know not whither I shall go nor how long here 

shall dwell. 15 

ALYSOUN 

(About 1300) 

Between soft March and April showers, 

When sprays of bloom from branches spring, 

And when the little bird 'mid flowers 

Doth song of sweetness loudly sing: 

To her with longing love I cling, 5 

Of all the world the fairest thing, 



SONGS AND BALLADS 1 65 

Whose thrall I am, who bliss can bring 

And give to me life's crown. 
A gracious fate to me is sent; 

Methinks it is by Heaven lent 10 

From women all, my heart is bent, 

To light on Alysoun. 

Her sheeny locks are fair to see, 

Her lashes brown, her eyes of black; 

With lovely mouth she smiles on me; 15 

Her waist is slim, of lissom make. 

Unless as mate she will me take, 

To be her own, my heart will break; 

Longer to live I will forsake, 

And dead I will fall down 20 

A gracious fate, etc. 

All for thy sake I restless turn, 

And wakeful hours sigh through at night; 

For thee, sweet lady, do I yearn; 

My cheeks wax wan in woful plight. 25 

No man so wise that can aright 

Her goodness tell, her beauties bright; 

Her throat is than the swan's more white, 

The fairest maid in town. 

A gracious fate, etc. 30 

Weary as water in the weir, 

With wooing I am spent and worn; 

Lest any reave me, much I fear, 

And leave me mateless and forlorn. 

A sharp, short pain is better borne, 35 

Than now and evermore to mourn. 

My love, O fair one, do not scorn, 

No longer on me frown. 
A gracious fate to me is sent; 



1 66 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

Methinks it is by Heaven lent; 40 

From women all, my heart is bent, 
To light on Alysoun. 



BLOW, NORTHERN WIND 

(About 1300) 

I know a maid in bower bright, 

That full seemly is to sight 

Maid of majesty and might, 

Of loyal heart and hand. 

'Midst many a nobler one 5 

A maid of blood and bone 

I know not even none 

So fair in all the land. 

Blow, Northern Wind, 

Send thou me my sweeting 10 

Blow, Northern Wind, blow, blow, blow. 

With her long and lovely tresses, 

Forehead and face fair for caresses 

Blest be the joy my lady blesses 

That bird so bright in bour, 15 

With lovesome eyes so large and good 

With blissful brows beneath her hood, 

He that once hung upon the Rood 

Her life holds in honour. 

Blow, Northern Wind, 20 

Send thou me my sweeting 
Blow, Northern Wind, blow, blow, blow. 

Her face is full of light, 

As a lantern in the night 

She sheds a radiance bright, 25 



SONGS AND BALLADS 167 

So fair is she and fine. 

Her neck is slender to enfold 

Her loving arms bring joy untold 

Her little hands are soft to hold 

Would God that she were mine. 30 

Blow, Northern Wind, 

Send thou me my sweeting 

Blow, Northern Wind, blow, blow, blow. 

She is coral of goodnesse 

Ruby she of rightfulnesse 35 

She is christal of cleannesse 

Beauty's banner she. 

She is lily of largesse 

Periwinkle of promesse 

She the sunflower of sweetnesse 40 

Lady of loyalty. 

Blow, Northern Wind, 

Send thou me my sweeting 

Blow, Northern Wind, blow, blow, blow. 

For her love I mourn and moan, 45 

For her love I grieve and groan, 

For her love my good is gone 

And I wax all wan. 

For her love in sleep I sigh 

For her love I wakeful lie 50 

For her love I droop and cry 

More than any man. 

Blow, Northern Wind, 

Send thou me my sweeting 

Blow, Northern Wind, blow, blow, blow. 55 



1 68 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 



WHEN THE NIGHTINGALE SINGS. 

When the nightingale sings, the woodes waxen greene, 
Leaf and grass and blossom springs, in Averil I weene, 
And love is to my hearte gone, with a spear so keene, 
Night and day my blood it drinks, mine heartes death to 
teene. [trouble] 

I have loved all this year, that I can love no more, 5 

I have sighed many sighs, Lady, for thine ore, [grace] 
Ne'er my love comes near to thee, and that me grieveth sore. 
Sweetest Lady think on me, I loved thee of yore. 

Sweetest Lady, speak I pray, one word of love to me, 
While in this wide world I stay, I'll seek for none but thee, 10 
Your kind love might give me bliss, from pain might set me 

free, 
A sweet kiss of thy dear mouth, might my surgeon be. 

Sweetest Lady, here I pray, one boon of love bestowe, 
If you love me, as men say, as I, dearest, knowe, 
If you will it, look on me, just a look will showe, 15 

So much have I thought of thee, I all ghastly growe. 

Between Linc61n and Lindesey, North-Hamptoun and 

Londoune, 
I wot not of so fair a may, by tower, dale, or toune, [maid] 
Dearest one, I humbly pray, love me a little soone. 

I now will plain my song, 20 

To her to whom it doth belong. 



SONGS AND BALLADS 1 69 

UBI SUNT QUI ANTE NOS FUERUNT? 

(About 1350) 

Where are they that lived before, 
Hounds they led and hawks they bore 

And had both field and chase? 
Ladies rich in bowers fair, 

Nets of gold bind up the hair, 5 

Rosy-bright of face. 

They ate and drank and made them glad 
Their life was all with pleasure led, 

Men kneeled them beforn, 
They bore themselves full proud and high 10 

And in the twinkling of an eye 
Their souls were all forlorn. 

Where is that laughing and that song 
The pride with which they passed along, 

The hawk, and hound, and bower? 15 

All that joy is gone away, 
That weal is come to welaway, 
To many a bitter hour. 

They took their heaven while they were here 

And now in hell they lie in fere; [together] 20 

The fire it burneth ever, 
Long is ay, and long is o, 
Long is wy, and long is wo, 
From thence come they never. 



170 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 



EARTH. 

That this singular and impressive little poem may be more 
readily understood, the word earth has been here printed with a 
capital wherever it is used to signify man, the creature made of 
the dust of the earth. This emphasizes the distinction between 
the different senses in which the word earth is used throughout 
the poem. 

Earth out of earth is wondrously wrought, 
Earth of earth hath got a dignity of naught, 
Earth upon earth hath set all his thought, 
How that Earth upon earth may be high brought. 

Earth upon earth would be a King; 5 

But how Earth shall to earth thinketh nothing; 
When that earth biddeth Earth his rentes home bring, 
Then shall Earth out of earth have a piteous parting. 

Earth upon earth winneth castles and towers, 
Then saith Earth to earth: "Now all this is ours!" 10 

When that Earth upon earth hath built up his bowers, 
Then shall Earth upon earth suffer sharp showres. [battles] 

Earth goes upon earth as mold upon mold, 

So goes Earth upon earth all glittering in gold,' 

As though Earth unto earth never go should, 15 

And yet Earth shall to earth before that he would. 

O thou Earth that on earth travailest night and day, 
To deck thee, Earth, to paint thee with wanton array; 
Yet shalt thou, Earth, for all thy earth, make thou it never 

so quaint and gay, 
Out of this earth into the earth, there to cling as a clod of 

clay. 20 



SONGS AND BALLADS 171 

O wretched man, why art thou proud that art of earth maked ? 
Hither broughtest thou no shroud, but poor came thou and 

naked! 
When thy soul is gone out, and thy body in earth raked, 
Then thy body that was rank and undevout, of all men is 

hated. 

Out of this earth came to this earth this wretched garment, 25 
To hide this Earth, to hap this Earth, to him was clothing 

lent; 
Now goes Earth upon earth, rueful, ragged, and rent, 
Therefore shall Earth under earth have hideous torment. 

Why that Earth too must love earth, wonder me think, 
Or why that Earth for superflue earth, too sore sweat will 
or swink; [toil] 30 

For when that Earth upon earth is brought within the brink, 
Then shall Earth of the earth have a rueful swink. 

So, Earth upon earth, consider thou may 

How Earth cometh into earth naked alway, 

Why should Earth upon earth go now so stout or gay 35 

When Earth shall pass out of earth in so poor array? 

Therefore, thou Earth upon earth that so wickedly hast 

wrought, 
While that thou, Earth, art upon earth, turn again thy 

thought, 
And pray to that God upon earth that all the earth hath 

wrought, 
That thou, Earth upon earth, to bliss may be brought. 40 

O Thou Lord that madest this earth for this Earth, and 

suffered here paines ill, 
Let not this Earth for this earth evil e'er spille, [destroy] 



172 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

But that this Earth on this earth be ever working Thy will, 
So that this Earth from this earth may fly up to Thy high hill. 

Amen. 45 



LIFE. 

The life of this world 

Is ruled with wind, 

Weeping, darkness, 

And stirring: [unrest] 

With wind we blowen, [blossom] 5 

With wind we lassen: 

With weeping we comen, 

With weeping we passen. 

With stirring we beginnen, 

With stirring we enden, 10 

With dread we dwellen, 

With dread we enden. 



AVE MARIA. 

Ave maris stella 
The star upon the sea 

Dei mater alma 
Blessed mayest thou be 

Atque semper virgo 
Pray thy son for me 

Felix celi porta 
That I may come to thee. 



SONGS AND BALLADS 1 73 



LULLABY 

I saw a fair maiden a-sitting to sing 

She lulled a little child, a sweete lording 

Lullaby my litling, my dear son, my sweeting, 
Lullaby my dear heart, my own dear darling. 

That child is the Lord who hath made everything, 5 

Of all lords he is Lord, of all kings he is King. 
Lullaby, etc. 

There was mickle melody in that child's birth 

All dwellers in heaven's bliss, they made mickle mirth 

Lullaby, etc. 10 

Angels brought their song that night and said unto the child 
"Blessed be thou and so be she that is both meek and mild." 
Lullaby, etc. 

Pray we now to that Child and his Mother dear 
To grant them his blessing that now make good cheer. 15 
Lullaby my litling, my dear son, my sweeting, 
Lullaby my dear heart my own dear darling. 



LULLABY 

Lullay, lullay, little child! 
Why weepest thou so sore ? 
Needes must thou weep, 
Thou wert doomed of yore 
Ever to live in sorrow, 
Ever to sigh and strive, 
As thy fathers did ere this 



174 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 

Whilst they were alive. 

Lullay, lullay, little child! 

Child lullay, lullow! 10 

To this world unknown 

Sadly come art thou. 

Beasts and birds and cattle, 

The fishes in the flood, 

And each thing that liveth 15 

Made of bone and blood, 

When into the world they come 

They do themselves some good, 

All but that poor imp 

That is of Adam's blood. 20 

With care art thou beset; 

Thou knowest naught of this world's wild 

That is before thee set. 

Child, if it betideth 

That Time shall prosper thee, 25 

Think how thou wert fostered 

On thy mother's knee; 

Ever mind thee in thine heart 

Of those thinges three 

Whence thou earnest, where thou art, 30 

And what shall come of thee. 

Lullay, lullay, little child! 

Child lullai, lullay! 

With sorrow thou earnest to this world, 

With sorrow shalt wend away. 35 

O! trust not to this world, 

It is thy fell foe. 

The rich it maketh poor, 

The poor man sick also. 

It turneth woe to weal 40 



SONGS AND BALLADS 1 75 

And also weal to woe. 

Trust not man this changing world 

While it turneth so. 

Lullay, lullay, little child! 

The foot is on the wheel, 45 

How 'twill turn thou knowest not, 

Whether to woe or weal. 

Child, thou art a pilgrim 

In wickedness yborn; 

Thou wanderest in this false world 50 

Look thou well beforn. 

Death shall come with sudden blast 

Out of the darkness hoar, 

Adam's children down to cast, 

Adam he slew before. 55 

Lullay, lullay, little child! 

Adam did woes oppress 

In the land of Paradise 

Through Satan's wickedness. 

Child, thou'rt not a pilgrim, 60 

But a helpless guest. 

Thy day already told, 

Thy lot already cast. 

Whether thou shalt wend 

North, or East, or West, 65 

Death shall thee betide, 

With bitter bale in breast. 

Lullay, lullay, little child! 

Child lullay, lullow! 

To this unknown world 70 

Sadlv come art thou. 



176 FROM NORMAN CONQUEST TO CHAUCER 



DEATH 

Death, rock me to sleep, 
Bring me to quiet rest, 

Let pass my weary guiltless ghost 

Out of my careful breast. 

Toll on the passing bell; 5 

Ring out my doleful knell; 

Thy sound my death abroad will tell, 

For I must die, 

There is no remedy. 

My pains who can express? 10 

Alas, they are so strong; 

My dolours will not suffer strength 

My life for to prolong. 

Toll on the passing bell; 

Ring out my doleful knell; 15 

Thy sound my death abroad will tell, 

For I must die, 

There is no remedy. 

Alone in prison strong 

1 wail my destiny. 20 
Woe worth this cruel hap that I 

Must taste this misery. 

Toll on the passing bell; 

Ring out my doleful knell; 

Thy sound my death abroad will tell, 25 

For I must die, 

There is no remedy. 

Farewell, my pleasures past, 

Welcome my present pain. 

I feel my torment so increase 30 



SONGS AND BALLADS 1 77 

That life cannot remain. 

Toll on the passing bell; 

Ring out my doleful knell; 

Thy sound my death abroad will tell, 

For I must die, 35 

There is no remedy. 

Cease now the passing bell; 

Ring out my doleful knell. 

For thou my death dost tell. 

Lord pity thou my soul. 40 

Death doth draw nigh. 

Sound dolefully 

For now I die, 

I die, I die. 



PART THIRD 
FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 

(gnifltog (Usurer 

13407-1400 

THE DETHE OF BLAUNCHE THE DUCHESSE 

(1369) 

THE DREAM 

{Lines 2QI-Q47) 

Me thoghte thus, — that hit was May, 
And in the dawenyng I lay, 

(Me mette thus,) in my bed al naked, [/ dreamed] 

And loked forth, for I was waked 

With smale foules a gret hepe, 5 

That had affrayed me out of my slepe 
Through noise and swetnesse of her song [their] 

And as me mette they sate a-mong 
Upon my chambre roof wyth-oute 

Upon the tyles over al a-boute, 10 

And songen, everich in his wyse, 
The moste solempne servyse 
By note, that ever man, I trowe, 

Hadde herd; for som of hem songe lowe [them] 

Som hye, and al of oon acorde. 15 

To telle shortly, at 00 worde, [one] 



l8o FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 

Was never herd so swete a Steven, — [voice] 

But hit hadde be a thyng of heven, — 

So mery a soun, so swete entunes, 

That certes, for the towne of Tewnes, 20 

I nolde but I hadde herd hem synge, 

For al my chambre gan to rynge 

Through syngyng of hir armonye. 

For instrument nor melodye 

Was nowher herd yet half so swete 25 

Nor of accorde half so mete; 

For ther was noon of hem that feyned 

To synge, for ech of hem him peyned 

To fynde out mery crafty notes; [skiljul] 

They ne spared not hir throtes. 30 

And sooth to seyn my chambre was 
Ful wel depeynted, and with glas 
Were al the wyndowes wel y-glased 
Ful clere, and nat an hole y-crased, [cracked] 

That to beholde hit was gret joye; 35 

For hoolly al the storie of Troye 
Was in the glasyng y-wrought thus, 
Of Ector, and of kyng Priamus; 
Of Achilles, and of Lamedon, 

And eke of Medea and of Jasoun; 40 

Of Paris, Eleyne, and of Lavyne; 
And alle the walles with colours fyne 
Were peynted, bothe text and glose, 
And al the Romaunce of the Rose. 

My wyndowes weren shet echon 45 

And through the glas the sunne shon 
Upon my bed with bryghte bemes, 
With many glade, gilden stremes; 

And eek the welken was so fair, — [sky] 

Blew, bryght, clere was the air, 50 

And ful attempre forsothe hit was; [mild] 



BLAUNCHE THE DUCHESSE l8l 

For nother to cold nor hoot hit nas, 

Ne in al the welkene was a clowde. {343) 

'Hit happed that I cam on a day (8°4) 

Into a place there that I say [saw] 55 

Trewly the fayrest companye 

Of ladyes, that ever man with ye [eye] 

Had seen to-gedres in 00 place. 

Shal I clepe hyt hap, other grace 

That broghte me ther? Nay, but Fortune 60 

That is to lyen ful commune. [thai commonly deceives] 

Among these ladies thus echoon, [816] 

Soth to seven, I sawgh oon 

That was lyk noon of the route 

For I dar swere, withoute doute, 

That as the someres sonne bryght 65 

Is fairer, clerer, and hath more lyght 

Than any other planete in heven, 

The mone or the sterres seven, 

For all the worlde so had she 

Surmounted hem alle of beaute 70 



'I saw hir daunce so comlily, [847] 

Carole and synge so swetely, 
Laughe and pleye so womanly, 

And loke so debonairly, 75 

So goodly speke and so friendly, 
That certes, I trowe that ever-more 
Nas seyn so blisful a tresore, 
For every heer on hir hede, 

Soth to seyn, it was not rede, 80 

Ne nouther yelw, ne broun it nas, 
Me thoghte most lyk gold it was. 

'And whiche yen my lady hadde! 



1 82 FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 

Debonair, goode, glade, and sadde, [constant, steady] 

Symple, of goode mochel, noght to wyde, 85 

Ther-to hir look nas not a-syde, 

Ne overthwert, but beset so wel, 

Hit drew and took up everydel 

Alle that on hir gan be-holde. 

Hir yen semed anoon she wolde 90 

Have mercy, fooles wenden so, — 

But hit was never the rather do. 

Hit was no countrefeted thyng, 

Hit was hir owne pure lokyng, 

That the goddesse, dame Nature, 95 

Had made hem opene by mesure, 

And close; for were she never so glad 

Hir lokyng was not foly sprad, [foolishly scattered] 

Ne wildely, thogh that she pleyde; 

But ever me thoghte hir yen seyde, ioo 

"By God, my wrathe is al for-yive!" 

Therwith hir liste so wel to live, 
That dulnesse was of hir a-drad. 
She nas to sobre, ne to glad. 

In alle thynges more mesure 105 

Had never, I trowe, creature. {SSi) 



'Hir throte, as I have now memoire (944) 

Semed a round tour of yvoire 910 

Of good gretnesse, and noght to grete. 
And gode, faire, White, she hete. ' [i.e., Blanche] 



PARLEMENT OF FOULES 1 83 

From "THE PARLEMENT OF FOULES." 

(About 1382) 

. . . But first were chosen foules for to synge, 
As, yeer be yere, was alwey hir usance 
To synge a roundel at hir departynge, 675 

To don to Nature honour and plesaunce. 
The note, I trowe, y-maked was in Fraunce; 
The wordes were swiche as ye may here fynde 
The nexte vers, as I now have in mynde. 

'Now welcom, somer, with thy sonne softe, 680 

That hast this wintres weders overshake 
And driven a-wey the longe nyghtes blake; 

Seynt Valentyn, that art ful hy on lofte, 
Thus syngen smale foules for thy sake 

Now welcom, somer, with thy sonne softe, 685 

That hast this wintres weders overshake. 

Wele han they cause for to gladen ofte, 

Sith ech of them recovered hath his make; [mate] 

Ful blisful mowe they ben when they awake. 

Now welcom, somer, with thy sonne softe 690 

That hast this wintres weders overshake 

And driven a-wey the longe nightes blake. 



1 84 FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 

From THE LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN 

(About 1385) 
THE PROLOGUE 

A thousand tymes I have herd men telle, 
That there is joy in hevene, and peyne in helle, 
And I acorde wel that it is so; 
But, natheles, yet wot I wel also, 

That ther is noon dwellyng in this countree, 5 

That eythir hath in hevene or in helle y-be, 
Ne may of hit noon other weyes witen, 
But as he hath herd seyde, or founde it writen; 
For by assay ther may no man it preve. 

But God forbede but men shulde leve [believe] 10 

Wel more thing than men han seen with eye! 
Men shal not wenen everything a lye 
But — if hymselfe it seeth, or elles dooth; 
For, God wot, thing is never the lasse sooth, 
Thogh every wight ne may it not y-see. 15 

Bernarde, the monke, ne saugh nat al, parde! 

Than mote we to bokes that we fynde, 
(Thurgh which that olde thinges ben in mynde) 
And to the doctrine of these olde wyse, 

Yeve credence, in every skylful wise, 20 

That tellen of these olde appreved stories, 
Of holynesse, of regnes, of victories, 
Of love, of hate, of other sondry thynges, 
Of whiche I may not maken rehersynges. 
And if that olde bokes were awey, 25 

Y-lorne were of remembraunce the key. 
Wel ought us, thanne, hon6uren and beleve 
These bokes, ther we han noon other preve. 



LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN 185 

And as for me, though that I konne but lyte, 
On bokes for to rede I me delyte, 30 

And to hem yive I feyth and ful credence, 
And in myn herte have hem in reverence 
So hertely, that ther is game noon [amusement] 

That from my bokes maketh me to goon, 
But it be seldom on the holyday, 35 

Save, certeynly, whan that the month of May 
Is comen, and that I here the foules synge, 
And that the floures gynnen for to sprynge, — 
Farewel my boke, and my devocion! 

Now have I thanne suche a condicion, 40 

That of alle the floures in the mede, 
Than love I most thise floures white and rede, 
Suche as men callen daysyes in our toun. 
To hem have I so grete affeccioun, 

As I seyde erst, whan comen is the May, 45 

That in my bed ther daweth me no day, 
That I nam up and walkyng in the mede, 
To seen this floure agein the sonne sprede, 
Whan it uprysith erly by the morwe; 

That blisful sighte softneth al my sorwe, 50 

So glad am I, whan that I have presence 
Of it, to doon it alle reverence, 
As she that is of alle floures flour, 
Fulfilled of al vertue and honour, 

And evere Hike faire, and fresshe of hewe. 55 

And I love it, and evere ylike newe, 
And ever shal, til that myn herte dye; 
Al swere I nat, of this I wol nat lye; 
Ther loved no wight hotter in his lyve. 

And whan that it is eve I renne blyve, [quickly] 60 

As sone as evere the sonne gynneth weste, 
To seen this flour, how it wol go to reste, 
For fere of nyght, so hateth she derknesse! 
Hir chere is pleynly sprad in the brightnesse [face] 



1 86 FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 

Of the sonne, for ther it wol unclose. 65 

Alias, that I ne had Englyssh, ryme or prose, 
Suffisant this flour to preyse aright! 
But helpeth ye that han konnyng and myght, 
Ye lovers, that kan make of sentement; 
In this case oghte ye be diligent 70 

To forthren me somewhat in my lab6ur, 
Whethir ye ben with the Leef or with the Flour; 
For wel I wot, that ye han her-biforne 

Of makynge ropen, and lad awey the come; [poetry reaped] 
And I come after, glenyng here and there, 75 

And am ful glad if I may fynde an ere 
Of any goodly word that ye han left. 
And thogh it happen me rehercen eft [after] 

That ye han in your fresshe songes sayede, 
Forbereth me, and beth not evele apayede, [ill pleased] 80 
Syn that ye see I do it in the honour 
Of love, and eke in service of the flour 
Whom that I serve as I have witte or myght. 
She is the clerenesse and the verray lyght, 
That in this derke worlde me wynt and ledyth, [turns] 85 

The herte in-with my sorwful brest yow dredith, [reveres] 
And loveth so sore, that ye ben verrayly 
The maistresse of my witte, and nothing I. 
My worde, my werk, is knyt so in youre bond 
That as an harpe obeieth to the hond, 90 

That maketh it soune after his fyngerynge, 
Ryght so mowe ye oute of myn herte bringe 
Swich vois, ryght as yow lyst, to laughe or pleyne; 
Be ye my gide, and lady sovereyne. 

As to my erthely god, to yowe I calle, 95 

Bothe in this werke, and in my sorwes alle. 
But wherfore that I spake to yive credence 
To olde stories, and doon hem reverence, 
And that men mosten more thyng beleve 
Then they may seen at eye or elles preve, 100 



LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN 1 87 

That shal I seyn, whanne that I see my tyme — 

I may nat al attones speke in ryme. 

My besy gost, that thursteth alwey newe, [anxious] 

To seen this flour so yong, so fresshe of hewe, 

Constreyned me with so gledy desire, [glowing] 105 

That in myn herte I feele yet the fire, 

That made me to ryse er it wer day, 

And this was now the firste morwe of May, 

With dredful hert, and glad devocion 

For to ben at the resurreccion no 

(5f this flour, whan that it shulde unclose 

Agayne the sonne, that roos as rede as rose, 

That in the brest was of the beste, that day, [beast, i.e. Taurus] 

That Agenores doghtre ladde away. 

And doun on knes anon-ryght I me sette, 115 

And as I koude, this fresshe flour I grette, 

Knelyng alwey, til it unclosed was, 

Upon the smale, softe, swote gras, [sweet] 

That was with floures swote enbrouded al, [broidered] 

Of swich swetnesse, and swich odour over-al, 120 

That for to speke of gomme, or herbe, or tree, 

Comparisoun may noon y-maked be; 

For it surmounteth pleynly al odoures, 

And of riche beaute alle floures. 

Forgeten had the erthe his pore estate 125 

Of wyntir, that him naked made and mate, [weak] 

And with his swerd of colde so sore greved; 

Now hath the atempresonne al that releved [mild] 

That naked was, and clad it new agayne. 

The smale foules, of the sesoun fayne, 130 

That of the panter and the nette ben scaped, [bag-net] 

Upon the foweler, that hem made a-whaped [jrightened\ 

In wynter, and distroyed hadde hire broode, 

In his dispite hem thoghte it did hem goode 

To synge of hym, and in hir songe dispise 135 

The foule cherle, that, for his coveytise, 



FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AXD SURREY 



Had hem betrayed with his sophistrye. 

This was hir songe, 'The foweler we deffye, 
And al his crafte.' And somme songen clere 
Layes of love, that joye it was to here, 
In worshipynge and in preysing of hir make; 
And, for the newe blisful somers sake, 
Upon the braunches ful of blosmes softe, 
In hire delyt, they turned hem ful ofte, 
And songen, 'Blessed be Seynt Valentyne! 
For on his day I chees you to be myne, 
Withouten repentyng myne herte swete!' 
And therewithal hire bekes gonnen meete, 
Yeldyng honour and humble obeysaunces 
To love, and diden hire othere observaunces 
That longeth onto love, and to nature; 
Construeth that as yow lyst, I do no cure. 

And tho that hadde don unkyndenesse, — 
(As doth the tydif, for newfangelnesse,) — 
Besoghte mercy of hir trespassynge, 
And humblely songen hir repentynge, 
And sworen on the blosmes to be trewe, 
So that hire makes wolde upon hem rewe, 
And at the laste maden hir acorde. 
Al founde they Daunger for a tyme a lord, 
Yet Pitee, thurgh his stronge gentil myght, 
Foryaf, and made Mercy passen Ryght, 
Thurgh Innocence, and ruled Curtesye. 
But I ne clepe it innocence folye, 
Ne fals pitee, for vertue is the mene; 
As Ethike seith, in swich maner I mene. 
And thus thise foweles, voide of al malice, 
Acordeden to love, and laften vice 
Of hate, and songen alle of oon acorde, 
'Welcome Somer, oure governour and lorde.' 

And Zepherus and Flora gentilly 
Yaf to the floures, softe and tenderly, 



[mate] 



[I care not] 

[those] 

[titmouse) 



140 



145 



150 



155 



[forgive them] 

[\>ower to harm] 
161 



mean, average] 165 



LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN 1 89 

His swoote breth, and made hem for to sprede, [sweet] 

As god and goddesse of the floury mede. 

In whiche me thoght I myghte, day by day, 175 

Dwellen alwey, the joly month of May, 

Withouten slepe, withouten mete or drynke. 

Adoun ful softely I gan to synke, 

And lenynge on myn elbowe and my syde, 180 

The longe day, I shoop me for to abide, [planned] 

For nothing ellis, and I shal nat lye, 

But for to loke upon the dayesie, 

That men by resoun wel it calle may 

The dayesie, or elles the ye of day, 185 

The emperice, and floure of floures alle. 

I pray to God that faire mote she falle, [good may befall] 

And alle that loven floures, for hire sake! 

But, natheles, ne wene nat that I make [make poetry] 

In preysing of the Flour agayn the Leef, 190 

No more than of the corne agayn the sheef; 

For as to me nys lever noon, ne lother, 

I nam witholden yit with never nother. [retained by] 

Ne I not who serveth Leef, ne who the Flour, [not i.e. ne wot] 

Wel browken they hir service or labour! [may they enjoy] 

For this thing is al of another tonne, [cask-weight] 195 

Of olde storye, er swiche thinge was begonne. 

Whan that the sonne out of the southe gan weste, 
And that this flour gan close, and goon to reste, 
For derknesse of the nyght, the which she dredde, 200 

Home to myn house full swiftly I me spedde 
To goon to reste, and erly for to ryse, 
To seen this flour to-sprede, as I devyse. 
And in a litel herber that I have, [arbor] 

That benched was on turves fressh y-grave, 205 

I bad men sholde me my couche make; 
For deyntee of the newe someres sake, [for the sake of enjoying] 
I had hem strawen floures on my bed. 

Whan I was leyde, and hadde myn eyen hed, [hid] 



190 



FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 



[/ dreamed] 
[revere] 



[royal] 
[ornament] 

[florets] 



210 



215 



[one] 



I fel on slepe, in-with an houre or two. 
Me mette how I lay in the medewe tho, 
To seen this flour that I love so and drede 
And from a-fer come walkyng in the mede 
The god of Love, and in his hand a quene, 
And she was clad in real habite grene, 
A fret of gold she hadde next her heer. 
And upon that a white crowne she beer, 
With flourouns smale, and I shal nat lye, 
For al the worlde ryght as a dayesye 
Y-corouned is with white leves lyte, 
So were the flourouns of hire coroune white; 
For of o perle, fyne, oriental, 
Hire white coroune was i-maked al 
For which the white coroune above the grene 
Made hire lyke a daysie for to sene, 
Considered eke hir fret of golde above. 

Y-clothed was this myghty god of Love 
In silke enbrouded, ful of grene greves, 
In-with a fret of rede rose leves, 
The fresshest syn the worlde was first bygonne 
His gilte here was corowned with a sonne 
In stede of golde, for hevynesse and wyghte; 
Therwith me thoght his face shon so brighte 
That wel unnethes myght I him beholde; [uneasily, scarcely] 
And in his hande me thoght I saugh him holde 
Two firy dartes as the gledes rede, [gleeds, brands] 

And aungelyke his wynges saugh I sprede. 
And, al be that men seyn that blynd is he, 
Algate me thoghte that he myghte se; [all the same] 
For sternely on me he gan byholde, 
So that his loking doth myn herte colde. 
And by the hande he helde this noble quene, 
Crowned with white, and clothed al in grene, 
So womanly, so benigne, and so meke, 
That in this world, thogh that men wolde seke, 



[groves] 



220 



225 



230 



235 



240 



LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN 191 

Half hire beute shulde men nat fynde 245 

In creature that formed is by Kynde. [Nature] 

And therfore may I seyn, as thynketh me, [say] 

This song in preysyng of this lady fre. 

Hyde Absalon, thy gilte tresses clere; 

Ester, ley thou thy mekenesse al adoun; 250 

Hyde, Jonathas, al thy frendly manere; 

Penalopee, and Marcia Catoun, 

Make of youre wifhode no comparysoun; 

Hyde ye youre beautes, Ysoude and Eleyne; 

My lady comith, that al this may disteyne. [stain, dim] 255 

Thy faire body lat it nat appere, 

Lavyne; and thou Lucresse of Rome toun, 

And Polixene, that boghten love so dere, 

And Cleopatre, with all thy passyoun, 

Hyde ye your trouthe of love, and your renoun, 260 

And thou, Tesbe, that hast of love suche peyne; 

My lady comith, that al this may disteyne. 

Hero, Dido, Laudomia, alle yfere, [altogether] 

And Phillis, hangyng for thy Demophon, 

And Canace, espied by thy chere, 265 

Ysiphile, betraysed with Jason, 

Maketh of your trouthe neythir boost ne soun, 

Nor Ypermystre, or Adriane, ye tweyne; 

My lady cometh, that al thys may dysteyne. 

This balade may ful wel y-songen be, 270 

As I have seyde erst, by my lady free; 
For certeynly al thise mowe nat suffice 
To apperen wyth my lady in no wyse. 
For as the sonne wole the fire disteyne, 
So passeth al my lady sovereyne, 275 

That is so good, so faire, so debonayre, 



192 



FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 



I prey to God that ever falle hire faire. 

For nadde comfort ben of hire presence, [we hadde, i. e. had not] 

I hadde ben dede, withouten any defence, 

For drede of Loves wordes, and his chere, 280 

As, when tyme is, herafter ye shal here. 



THE CANTERBURY TALES 

(Begun 1386-1387) 
THE PROLOGUE 



Whan that Aprille with hise shoures soote [sweet] 

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, 



And bathed every veyne in swich licour 

Of which vertu engendred is the flour; 

Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth 

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth 

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne 

Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne, 

And smale foweles maken melodye, 

That slepen al the nyght with open eye, 

(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages,) 

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages, 

And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes 

To feme halwes, kowthe in sondry londes; 

And specially, from every shires ende 

Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende, 

The hooly blissful martir for to seke, 

That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke 

Bifil that in that seson on a day, 
In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay, 
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage 



moisture] 



sprouts] 



[hearts] 



10 



[distant saints] 
known,] 15 



[sick] 



20 



CANTERBURY TALES 1 93 

To Caunterbury with fill devout corage, [heart] 

At nyght were come into that hostelrye 

Wei nyne-and-twenty in a compaignye, 

Of sondry folk, by a venture y-falle 25 

In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle, 

That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde. 

The chambres and the stables weren wyde, 

And wel we weren esed atte beste. 

And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste, 30 

So hadde I spoken with hem everychon, 

That I was of hir felaweshipe anon, 

And made forward erly for to ryse, [agreement] 

To take oure wey, ther as I yow devyse. 

But natheless, whil I have tyme and space, 35 

Er that I ferther in this tale pace, 
Me thynketh it accordaunt to resoun 
To telle yow al the condici'oun 
Of ech of hem, so as it semed me, 

And whiche they weren, and of what degree, 40 

And eek in what array, that they were inne; 
And at a Knyght than wol I first begynne. 

A knyght ther was and that a worthy man, 
That fro the tyme that he first bigan 

To riden out, he loved chivalrie, 45 

Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie. 
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre, 
And thereto hadde he riden, no man ferre, 
As wel in cristendom as in hethenesse, 

And ever honoured for his worthynesse. 50 

At Alisaundre he was whan it was wonne; 
Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne [fable, s. note] 
Aboven all nac'ions in Pruce. 

In Lettow hadde he reysed and in Ruce, — [travels ] 

No cristen man so ofte of his degree. 55 

In Gernade at the seege eek hadde he be 



194 FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 

Of Algezir, and riden in Belmarye. 

At Lyeys was he, and at Satalye, 

Whan they were wonne; and in the Grete See 

At many a noble armee hadde he be. [sea-expedition] 60 

At mortal battailles hadde he been fiftene, 
And foughten for oure feithe at Tramyssene 
In lystes thries, and ay slayn his foo. 
This ilke worthy knyght hadde been also 
Somtyme with the lord of PalatVe 65 

Again another hethen in Turkye; 
And evermoore he hadde a sovereyn prys. 
And though that he were worthy, he was wys, 
And of his port as meeke as is a mayde. 
He never yet no vileyn>e ne sayde, 70 

In al his lyf, unto no maner wight. 
He was a verray parfit, gentil knyght. 

But for to tellen yow of his array, 
His hors weren goode, but he ne was nat gay; 
Of fustian he wered a gypon [doublet] 75 

Al bismotered with his habergeon [hauberk, coat of mail] 
For he was late y-come from his viage, 
And wente for to doon his pilgrymage. 

With hym ther was his sone, a yong Squier, 
A lovyere and a lusty bacheler, 80 

With lokkes crulle as they were leyd in presse. 
Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse, 
Of his stature he was of even lengthe, 
And wonderly delyvere and greet of strengthe; [quick] 
And he hadde been somtyme in chyvachie, [campaign] 85 
In Flaundres, in Artoys and Pycardie, 
And born hym weel, as of so litel space, 
In hope to stonden in his lady grace. 
Embrouded was he, as it were a meede [embroidered] 
Al ful of fresshe floures whyte and reede; 90 

Syngynge he was, or floytynge, al the day; 
He was as fressh as is the monthe of May. 



CANTERBURY TALES 1 95 

Short was his gowne, with sieves longe and wyde; 

Wei koude he sitte on hors and faire ryde; 

He koude songes make and wel endite, 95 

Juste and eek daunce and weel purtreye and write. 

So hoote he lovede that by nyghtertale [night-time] 

He sleep namoore than dooth a nyghtyngale. 

Curteis he was, lowely and servysable, 

And carf biforn his fader at the table. 100 

A Yeman hadde he and servants namo [no more] 

At that tyme, for hym liste ride soo; 
And he was clad in cote and hood of grene. 
A sheef of pocock arwes, bright and kene, [peacock] 

Under his belt he bar ful thriftily — 
Wel koude he dresse his takel yemanly; 
His arwes drouped noght with fetheres lowe — 
And in his hand he baar a myghty bowe. 
A not-heed hadde he, with a broun visage. [crop -lie ad] 
Of woodecraft wel koude he al the usage. 
Upon his arm he baar a gay bracer [arm-guard] 

And by his syde a swerd and a bokeler. 
And on that oother syde a gay daggere. 
Harneised wel and sharpe as point of spere; 
A Cristophere on his brest of silver sheene; [shone] 115 

An horn he bar, the bawdryk was of grene. [shoulder-belt] 
A forster was he, soothly as I gesse. 

Ther was also a Nonne, a Prior esse, 
That of hir smylyng was ful symple and coy; 
Hire grettest ooth was but by seinte Loy, 120 

And she was cleped madame Eglentyne. [called] 

Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne, 
Entuned in hir nose ful semely, 

And Frenssh she spake ful faire and fetisly [neatly] 

After the scole of Stratford-atte-Bowe, 
For Frenssh of Parys was to hire unknowe. 
At mete wel y-taught was she with-alle, 



196 FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 

She leet no morsel from hir lippes falle, 

Ne wette hir fyngres in hir sauce depe. 

Wei koude she carie a morsel and wel kepe. 130 

That no drope ne fille upon hire breste; [jell] 

In curteisie was set ful muchel hir leste. [joy] 

Hire over-lippe wyped she so clene, 

That in hir coppe ther was no ferthyng sene 

Of grece, whan she dronken hadde hir draughte. 135 

Ful semely after hir mete she raughte. [reached] 

And sikerly she was of greet desport. [surely] 

And ful plesaunt and amyable of port. 

And peyned hire to countrefete cheere [looks] 

Of Court, and been estatlich of manere. [dignified] 140 

And to ben holden digne of reverence. 

But for to speken of hire conscience, [sympathy] 

She was so charitable and so pitous 

She wolde wepe if that she saugh a mous 

Kaught in a trappe, if it were deed or bledde. 145 

Of smale houndes hadde she that she fedde 

With rosted flessh, or milk and wastel breed; [fine white bread] 

But soore wepte she if oon of hem were deed, 

Or if men smoot it with a yerde smerte; [stick smartly] 

And al was conscience and tendre herte. 150 

Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was; [breast-cover] 
Hire nose tretys, hir eyen greye as glas, [shapely] 

Hir mouth ful smal and there-to softe and reed, 
But sikerly she hadde a fair forheed; 

It was almost a spanne brood I trowe, 155 

For, hardily, she was not undergrowe. [surely] 

Ful fetys was hir cloke, as I was war; [neat] 

Of smal coral aboute hire arm she bar 
A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene, 
And ther-on heng a brooch of gold ful sheene, 160 

On which ther was first write a crowned A, 
And after Amor vincit omnia. 

Another Nonne with hire hadde she 



CANTERBURY TALES I97 

That was hir Chapeleyne, and Preestes thre. 

A Monk ther was, a fair for the maistrie, 165 

An outridere, that lovede venerie; [hunting] 

A manly man, to been an abbot able. 
Ful many a deyntee hors hadde he in stable, 
And whan he rood men myghte his brydel heere 
G/nglen in a whistlynge wynd als cleere, 170 

And eeke as loude as dooth the chapel belle. 
Ther as this lord was keepere of the celle, 
The reule of seint Maure or of seint Beneit, 
By-cause that it was olde and som-del streit, — [slrict] 
This ilke Monk leet olde thynges pace, 175 

And heeld after the newe world a space. 
He yaf nat of that text a pulled hen 
That seith that hunters beth nat hooly men, 
Ne that a Monk whan he is reechelees [without direction] 
Is likned til a fissh that is waterlees: [to] 

This is to seyn, a Monk out of his cloystre. 
But thilke text heeld he nat worth an oystre; [that same] 
And I seyde his opini'oun was good 
What sholde he studie and make hymselven wood, [mad] 
Upon a book in cloystre alwey to poure, 185 

Or swynken with his handes and laboure, [[oil] 

As Austyn bit? How shal the world be served? [bids] 
Lat Austyn have his swynk to him reserved. 
Therfore he was a prikasour aright; [hard rider] 

Grehoundes he hadde; as swift as fowel.in flight: 190 

Of prikyng and of hunting for the hare 
Was al his lust, for no cost wolde he spare. 
I seigh his sieves y-purfiled at the hond [trimmed] 

With grys, and that the fyneste of a lond; [gray jur] 

And for to festne his hood under his chyn 195 

He hadde of gold y-wroght a ful curious pyn, 
A love knotte in the gretter ende ther was. 
His heed was balled that shoon as any glas, 
And eek his face as he hadde been enoynt. 



190 FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 

He was a lord ful fat and in good poynt; 200 

Hise eyen stepe and rollynge in his heed, [protruding] 
That stemed as a forneys of a leed; [glowed like furnace 
His bootes souple, his hors in greet estaat. under caldron] 
Now certeinly he was a fair prelaat. 

He was nat pale, as a forpyned goost: [tormented] 205 

A fat swan loved he best of any roost; 
His palfrey was as broun as is a berye. 

A Feere ther was, a wantowne and a merye, 
A lymytour, a ful solempne man, 

In alle the ordres foure is noon that kan 210 

So muchel of daliaunce and fair langage; 
He hadde maad ful many a manage 
Of yonge wommen at his owene cost: 
Unto his ordre he was a noble post. 

Ful wel biloved and famulier was he 215 

With frankeleyns over al in his contree; 
And eek with worthy wommen of the toun, 
For he hadde power of confess'ioun, 
As seyde hym-self, moore than a curat, 

For of his ordre he was licenciat. 220 

Ful swetely herde he confess'ioun, 
And pleasaunt was his absolucioun. 
He was an esy man to yeve penaunce 
Ther as he wiste to have a good pitaunce; 
For unto a poure ordre for to yive 225 

Is signe that a man is wel y-shryve; 
For, if he yaf, he dorste make avaunt [boast] 

He wiste that a man was repentaunt: 
For many a man so harde is of his herte 
He may nat wepe al thogh hym soOre smerte, 230 

Therfore in stede of wepynge and preyeres 
Men moote yeve silver to the poure freres. 
His typet was ay farsed full of knyves [hood] [stuffed] 

And pynnes for to yeven yonge wyves; 



CANTERBURY TALES 1 99 

And certeinly he hadde a murye note; 235 

Wei koude he synge and pleyen on a rote: [small harp] 

Of yeddynges he baar outrely the pris; [sowgs] 

His nekke whit was as the nour-de-lys, 

Ther-to he strong was as a champioun. 

He knew the tavernes well in al the toun 240 

And everich hostiler and tappestere [barmaid] 

Bet than a lazar or a beggestere; [leper] [beggar] 

For unto swich a worthy man as he 

Acorded nat, as by his facultee, 

To have with sike lazars aqueyntaunce; 245 

It is nat honeste, it may nat avaunce 

For to deelen with no swiche poraille; [poor folks] 

But al with riche and selleres of vitaille. 

And over al, ther as profit sholde arise, 

Curteis he was and lowely of servyse, 250 

Ther nas no man nowher so vertuous! 

He was the beste beggere in his hous, 

For thogh a wydwe hadde noght a sho, 

So plesaunt was his In principio, 

Yet wolde he have a ferthyng er he wente: 255 

His purchase was wel bettre than his rente. [profit, s. note] 

And rage he koude, as it were right a whelpe. 

In love-dayes ther koude he muchel helpe. 

For ther he was not lyk a cloysterer 

With a thredbare cope, as is a poure scoler, 260 

But he was lyk a maister, or a pope; 

Of double worstede was his semycope, [short cloak] 

That rounded as a belle out of the presse. 

Somwhat he lipsed for his wantownesse, 

To make his Englissh sweet upon his tonge, 265 

And in his harpyng, whan that he hadde songe, 

His even twynkled in his heed aryght 

As doon the sterres in the frosty nyght. 

This worthy lymytour was cleped Huberd. 



200 FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 

A Marchant was ther with a forked berd, 270 

In motteleye, and hye on horse he sat; 
Upon his heed a Flaunderyssh bevere hat; 
His bootes clasped faire and fetisly; 
His resons he spake ful solempnely, 

Sowynge alway thencrees of his wynnyng. 275 

He wolde the see were kept for any thing [at any cos.] 
Bitwixe Middelburgh and Orewelle. 
Wei koude he in eschaunge sheeldes selle. 
This worthy man ful wel his wit bisette, 

Ther wiste no wight that he was in dette, 280 

So estatly was he of his governaunce 
With his bargaynes and with his chevyssaunce, [loans] 
For sothe he was a worthy man with-alle, 
But sooth to seyn I noot how men hym calle. [know not] 

A Cleek ther was of Oxenford also 285 

That unto logyk hadde long y-go. 
As leene was his hors as is a rake. 
And he nas nat right fat, I undertake, 
But looked holwe, and ther-to sobrely; 

Ful thredbare was his overeste courtepy; [short over-coat] 290 
For he hadde geten hym yet no benefice, 
Ne was so worldly for to have office; 
For hym was levere have at his beddes heed 
Twenty bookes clad in blak or reed 

Of Aristotle and his philosophie, 295 

Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrie: [fiddle] [harp] 
But al be that he was a philosophre, [albeit, although] 

Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre; 

But al that he myghte of his freendes hente [get] 

On bookes and his lernynge he it spente, 300 

And bisily gan for the soules preye 

Of hem that yaf hym wher-with to scoleye. [get schooling] 
Of studie took me moost cure and moost heed, [care] 

Noght o word spak he moore than was neede, [one] 



CANTERBURY TALES 201 

And that was seyd in forme and reverence, 305 

And short and quyk and ful of hy sentence [meaning] 
Sownynge in moral vertu was his speche [lending to] 
And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche. 

A Sergeant of the Lawe, war and wys, [wary, prudem] 
That often hadde been at the Parvys, [Church- porch, s. note] 
Thar was also, ful riche of excellence. 
Discreet he was, and of greet reverence; 
He semed swich, hise wordes weren so wise. 
Justice he was full often in Assise, 

By patente and by pleyn commissi'oun. [full] 315 

For his science and for his heigh renoun, 
Of fees and robes hadde he many oon; 
So greet a purchasour was nowher noon, [prosecutor] 
Al was fee symple to hym in effect, 

His purchasyng myghte nat been infect, [invalidated, s. note] 
Nowher so bisy a man as he ther nas, 320 

And yet he semed bisier than he was. 
In termes hadde he caas and doomes alle [decisions] 
That from the tyme of kyng William were falle; 
Ther-to he coude endite and make a thyng. [s. note] 
Ther koude no wight pynchen at his writ} ng; [find fault] 325 
And every statut coude he pleyn by rote. 
He rood but hoomly in a medlee cote, 
Girt with a ceint of silk with barres smale; [girdle] 

Of his array telle I no lenger tale. 330 

A Fraxkeleyx was in his compaignye. 
Whit was his berd as is a dayseye, 
Of his complexioun he was sangwyn. 
Wei loved he by the morwe a sope in wyn ; 
To lyven in delit was evere his wone, [custom] 325 

For he was Epicurus owene sone, 

That heeld opinioun that pleyn delit [full] 

Was verraily felicitee parfit. 



202 FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 

An housholdere, and that a greet, was he: 

Seint Julian was he in his contree; 340 

His breed, his ale, was alweys after oon; 

A better envyned man was nowher noon, [stored with mine] 

Withoute bake mete was never his hous, 

Of fissh and flessh, and that so plenteuous 

It snewed in his hous of mete and drynke. 345 

Of alle deyntees that men koude thynke 

After the sondry sesons of the yeer, 

So chaunged he his mete and his soper. 

Ful many a fat partrich hadde he in muwe [coop] 

And many a breem and may a luce in stuwe. [fish -pound) 350 

Wo was his cook but if his sauce were 

Poynaunt and sharpe and redy al his geere. 

His table dormant in his halle alway, [fixed table] 

Stood redy covered al the longe day. 

At sessiouns ther was he lord and sire; 355 

Ful ofte tyme he was knyght of the shire. 

An anlaas, and a gipser al of silk, [dagger] [pouch] 

Heeng at his girdel, whit as morne milk; 

A shirreve hadde he been, and a countour. [auditor] 

Was nowher such a worthy vavasour. . . . [land-holder] 360 

A Shipman was ther, wonyng fer by weste; [dwelling] {388) 
For aught I woot he was of Dertemouthe. 
He rood upon a rouncy as he kouthe, [farm-horse] 

In a gowne of faldyng to the knee. 

A daggere hangyng on a laas hadde he [cord] 365 

Aboute his nekke under his arm adoun. 
The hoote somer hadde maad his hewe al broun; 
And certeinly he was a good felawe.- 
Ful many a draughte of wine hadde he y-drawe 
FroBurdeuxwardwhil that the Chapman sleepe. [merchant] 370 
Of nyce conscience took he no keepe. [heed] 

If that he faught, and hadde the hyer hond, 
By water he sent hem hoom to every lond. 



CANTERBURY TALES 203 

But of his craft to rekene wel his tydes, 

His stremes and his daungers hym bisides, 375 

His herberwe and his moone, his lode-menage, [pilotage] 

Ther nas noon swich from Hulle to Cartage. 

Hardy he was, and wys to undertake: 

With many a tempest hadde his berd ben shake; 

He knew wel alle the havenes, as they were, 380 

From Gootlond to the Cape of Fynystere, 

And every cryke in Britaigne and in Spayne. 

His barge y-cleped was the Maudelayne. 

With us ther was a Doctour of Phisik; 

In all this world ne was ther noon hym lik, 385 

To speke of phisik and of surgerye; 

For he was grounded in astronomye. 

He kepte his pac'ient a ful greet deel [watched] 

In houres, by his magyk natureel. [astrological hours] 

Wel koude he fortunen the ascendent 390 

Of his ymages for his pacient. 

He knew the cause of everich maladye, 

Were it of hoot, or cold, or moyste, or drye, 

And where they engendred and of what humour; 

He was a verray parfit praktisour. 395 

The cause y-knowe and of his harm the roote. 

Anon he yaf the sike man his boote. [remedy] 

Ful redy hadde he his apothecaries 

To send him drogges and his letuaries, [syrup and powder] 

For ech of hem made oother for to wynne, 400 

Hir frendshipe nas nat newe to bigynne. 

Wel knew he the olde Esculapius 

And Deyscorides, and eke Rufus, 

Olde Ypocras, Haly and Galyen, 

Serapion, Razis and Avycen, 405 

Averrois, Damascien and Constantyn, 

Bernard and Gatesden and Gilbertyn. 

Of his diete mesurable was he. 



204 FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT PND SURRF.Y 

For it was of no superfluitee, 

But of greet norissyng and digestible. 410 

His studie was but litel on the Bible. 

In sangwyn and in pers he clad was al. [red and blue] 

Lyned with taffata and with sendal. 

And yet he was but esy of dispence, [moderate in spending] 

He kepte that he wan in pestilence. 415 

For gold in phisik is a cordial, 

Therfore he lovede gold in special. 

A Good Wif was ther of biside Bathe, 

But she was som-del deef, and that was scathe, [a pity] 

Of clooth-makyng she hadde swich an haunt [skitt\ 420 

She passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt. 

In al the parisshe wif ne was ther noon 

That to the offrynge bifore hire sholde goon; 

And if ther dide, certeyn so wrooth was she, 

That she was out of alle charitee. 425 

Hir coverchiefs ful fyne weren of ground, — [head-dresses] 

I dorste swere they weyeden ten pound, — 

That on a Sonday weren upon hir heed. 

Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed, 

Ful streite y-teyd, and shoes ful moyste and newe; 430 

Boold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe. 

She was a worthy womman al hir lyre, 

Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde fyve. 

Withouten oother compaignye in youthe, — 

But ther-of nedeth nat to speke as nowthe, — [now] 435 

And thries hadde she been at Jerusalem; 

She hadde passed many a straunge strem; 

At Rome she hadde been, and at Boloigne, 

In Galice at Seint Jamc, and at Coloigne, 

She koude muchel of wandrynge by the weye. 340 

Gat-tothed was she, soothly for to seye. [with teeth set apart] 

Upon an amblere esily she sat, 

Y-wympled wel, and on hir heed an hat 



CANTERBURY TALES 205 

As brood as is a bokeler or targe; 

A foot mantel aboute her hipes large, 445 

And on hire feet a paire of spores sharpe. 

In felaweship wel koude she laughe and carpe; [chatter] 

Of remedies of love she knew per chaunce, 

For she koude of that art the olde daunce. 

A good man was ther of religioun, 450 

And was a Poure Persoun of a Toun; 
But riche he was of hooly thoght and werk; 
He was also a lerned man, a clerk, 
That Cristes Gospel trewely wolde preche: 
His parisshens devoutly wolde he teche. 455 

Benygne he was and wonder diligent, 
And in adversitee ful pacient; 

And swich he was y-preved ofte sithes. [proved] [times] 
Ful looth were hym to cursen for his tithes, 
But rather wolde he yeven out of doubte, 460 

Unto his poure parisshens aboute, 
Of his offryng and eek of his substaunce: 
He koude in litel thyng have suffisaunce. 
Wyd was his parisshe and houses fer asonder, 
But he ne lafte nat for reyn ne thonder, 465 

In siknesse nor in meschief to visite 
The ferreste in his parisshe, muche and lite, 
Upon his feet, and in his hand a staf . 
This noble ensample to his sheepe he yaf 
That firste he wroghte and afterward he taughte. 470 

Out of the gospel he tho wordes caughte, [those] 

And this figure he added eek therto, 
That if gold ruste what shal iren doo ? 
For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste, 
No wonder is a lewed man to ruste; [layman] 475 

And shame it is, if a prest take keepe, 
A shiten shepherde and a clene sheepe. 
Wel oghte a preest ensample for to yive 



206 FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 

By his clennesse how that his sheepe sholde lyre. 

He sette nat his benefice to hyre 480 

And leet his sheepe encombred in the myre, 

And ran to Londoun, unto Seint Poules, 

To seken hyn a chaunterie for soules; [chantry, s. note] 

Or with a bretherhed to been withholde, [supported] 

But dwelte at hoom and kepte wel his folde, 485 

So that the wolf ne made it nat myscarie, — 

He was a shepherde, and noght a mercenarie: 

And though he hooly were and vertuous, 

He was to synful man nat despitous, [scornful] 

Ne of his speche daungerous ne digne, 490 

But in his techyng descreet and benygne, 

To drawen folk to hevene by fairnesse, 

By good ensample, this was his bisynesse; 

But it were any persone obstinat, 

What so he were, of heigh or lough estat, 495 

Hym wolde he snybben sharply for the nonys. [reprove] 

A bettre preest I trowe that nowher noon ys; 

He waited after no pompe and reverence, 

Ne maked him a spiced conscience, 

But Cristes loore, and his Apostles twelve, 500 

He taughte, but first he folwed it hymselve. 

With hym ther was a Plowman, was his brother, 
That hadde y-lad of dong ful many a fother, — [cart-load] 
A trewe swynkere and a good was he, [laborer] 

Lyvynge in pees and parfit charitee. 505 

God loved he best, with al his hoole herte, 
At alle tymes, thogh him gamed or smerte, [in joy or pain] 
And thanne his neighebore right as hymselve. 
He wolde thresshe, and therto dyke and delve, 
For Cristes sake, for every poure wight, 510 

Withouten hire if it lay in his myght. 
His tithes payde he ful faire and wel, 
Bothe of his propre swynk and his catel. [labor ami properly] 



CANTERBURY TALES 207 

In a tabard he rood upon a mere. [short-coat] 

Ther was also a Reve and a Miller. 515 

A Somnour and a Pardoneb also, 
A Maunciple and myself, — ther were namo. 

The Millere was a stout carl for the nones, 
Ful byg was he of brawn and eek of bones; 
That proved wel, for over-al, ther he cam, 520 

At wrastlynge he wolde have awey the ram. 
He was short-sholdred, brood, a thikke knarre, [knct] 
Ther nas no dore that he nolde heve of harre, [hinge] 
Or breke it at a rennyng with his heed. 

His berd, as any sowe or fox, was reed, 525 

And therto brood, as though it were a spade. 
Upon the cope right of his nose he hade [tip] 

A werte, and thereon stood a toft of herys, 
Reed as the brustles of a sowes erys; 

His nosethirles blake were and wyde; 530 

A swerd and a bokeler bar he by his syde; 
His mouth as wyde was as a greet forneys, 
He was a janglere and a goliardeys, [loud and ribald jester] 
And that was moost of synne and harlotries. 
Wel koude he stelen corn and tollen thries, [charge thrice] 535 
And yet he hadde a thombe of golde, pardee. 
A whit cote and a blew hood wered he. 
A baggepipe wel koude he blow eand sowne, 
And therwithal he broghte us out of towne. . . . {566) 

The Reve was a sclendre colerik man (5$ 7) 54° 

His berd was shave as ny as ever he kan; 
His heer was by his erys round y-shorn, 
His top was doked lyk a preest biforn, 
Ful longe were his legges and ful lene, 
Y-lyk a staf, ther was no calf y-sene. ... 545 

A Somonour was ther with us in that place, (^3) 
That hadde a fyr-reed cherubynnes face, 



208 



FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 



For sawcefleem he was, with eyen narwe. [pimpled] 
As hoot he was, and lecherous, as a sparwe, ^50 

With scaled browes blake and piled berd, — [scabby] [pa/chy] 
Of his visage children were aferd. . . . 



With hym ther rood a gentil Pardoner (669) 

Of Rouncivale, his freend and his compeer, 
That streight was comen fro the court of Rome. 555 

Ful loude he soong Com hider, love to me! 
This Somonour bar to hym a stif burdoun, [strong bass] 
Was never trompe of half so greet a soun. 
This Pardoner hadde heer as yelow as wex 
But smothe it heeng as dooth a strike of flex; [hank 0} [tax] 
By ounces henge his lokkes that he hadde, 561 

And therwith he his shuldres overspradde. 
But thynne it lay by colpons oon and oon; [shreds] 

But hood, for jolitee, ne wered he noon, 
For it was trussed up in his walet. 

Hym thoughte he rood al of the newe jet; [fashion] 

Dischevelee, save his cappe, he rood al bare. 
Swiche glarynge eyen hadde he as an hare, 
A vernycle hadde he sowed upon his cappe; [s. note] 
His walet lay biforn hym in his lappe 
Bret-ful of pardon, comen from Rome al hoot. 
A voys he hadde as smal as hath a goot; 
No berd hadde he, ne never sholde have, 
As smothe it was as it were late shave; 
I trowe he were a geldyng or a mare. 
But of his craft, fro Berwyk unto Ware 
Ne was ther swich another pardoner, 

For in his male he hadde a pilwe-beer, [wallet] [pittow-case] 
Which that, he seyde, was oure lady veyl; 
He seyde he hadde a gobet of the seyl \slurd] 580 

That Seinte Peter hadde, whan that he wente 
Upon the see, til Jhesu Crist hym hente. [caught] 

He hadde a croys of latoun, ful of stones, [brass] 



565 



570 

[brimful] 



575 



CANTERBURY TALES 209 

And in a glas he hadde pigges bones. 

But with thise relikes, whan that he fond 585 

A poure person dwellynge upon lond, 

Upon a day he gat hym moore moneye 

Than that the person gat in monthes tweye; 

And thus with feyned flaterye and japes [tricks] 

He made the person and the peple his apes. 590 

But, trewely to tellen atte laste, 

He was in chirche a noble ecclesiaste; 

Wei koude he rede a lessoun or a storie, 

But alderbest he song an Offertorie; 

For wel he wiste whan that song was songe, 595 

He moste preche, and wel affile his tonge 

To wynne silver, as he ful wel koude; 

Therefore he song the murierly and loude. [the more merrily] 

Now have I toold you shortly, in a clause, 
The staat, tharray, the nombre, and eek the cause 600 

Why that assembled was this compaignye 
In Southwerk, at this gentil hostelrye, 
That highte the Tabard, faste by the Belle. 
But now is tyme to yow for to telle 

How that we baren us that ilke nyght, 605 

Whan we were in that hostelrie alyght; 
And after wol I telle of our viage 
And al the remenaunt of oure pilgrimage. . . . (724) 

Greet chiere made oure hoost us everichon, (747) 
And to the soper sette he us anon, 610 

And served us with vitaille at the beste: 
Strong was the wyn and wel to drynke us leste. [pleased] 

A semely man Our Hooste was with-alle 
For to han been a marchal in an halle. 

A large man he was, with eyen stepe, 615 

A fairer burgeys is ther noon in Chepe; 
Boold of his speche, and wys and well y-taught 
And of manhod hym lakkede right naught. 
Eek therto he was right a myrie man, 



2IO FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 

And after soper pleyen he bigan, 620 

And spak of myrthe amonges othere thynges, 

Whan that we hadde maad our rekenynges; 

And seyde thus: 'Now, lordynges, trewely, 

Ye been to me right welcome, hertely; 

For by my trouthe, if that I shal nat lye, 625 

I ne saugh this yeer so myrie a compaignye 

At ones in this herberwe as is now; 

Fayn wolde I doon yow myrthe, wiste I how. 

And of a myrthe I am right now bythoght, 

To doon yow ese, and it shal coste noght. 630 

'Ye goon to Canterbury — God yow speede, 
The blisful martir quite yow youre meede! [P°y] 

And, wel I woot, as ye goon by the weye, 
Ye shapen yow to talen and to pleye ; [prepare to tell stories \ 
For trewely confort ne myrthe is noon 635 

To ride by the weye doumb as a stoon; 
And therfore wol I maken yow disport, 
As I seyde erste, and doon yow som confort. 
And if you liketh alle, by oon assent, 

Now for to stonden at my juggement, 640 

And for to werken as I shal yow seye, 
To-morwe, whan ye riden by the weye, 
Now, by my fader soule, that is deed, 
But ye be myrie, smyteth of myn heed! 
Hoold up youre hond, withouten moore speche.' 645 

Oure conseil was nat longe for to seche; 
Us thoghte it was noght worth to make it wys, [s. note] 
And graunted hym withouten moore avys, [deliberation] 
And bad him seye his verdit, as hym leste. 

'Lordynges,' quod he, 'now herkneth for the beste; 650 
But taak it nought, I prey yow, in desdeyn; 
This is the poynt, to speken short and pleyn, 
That ech of yow, to shorte with your weye, 
In this viage shal telle tales tweye, — 
To Caunterburyward, I mean it so, 655 



CANTERBURY TALES 211 

And homward he shal tellen othere two, — 

Of a ventures that whilom han bifalle. 

And which of yow that bereth hym beste of alle, 

That is to seyn, that telleth in this caas 

Tales of best sentence and most solaas, [wisdom] 660 

Shal have a soper at oure aller cost, 

Heere in this place, sittynge by this post, 

Whan that we come agayn fro Caunterbury. 

And, for to make yow the moore mury, 

I wol myselven gladly with yow ryde 665 

Right at myn owene cost, and be youre gyde; 

And whoso wole my juggement withseye 

Shal paye al that we spenden by the weye. 

And if ye vouche-sauf that it be so 

Tel me anon, withouten wordes mo, 670 

And I wol erly shape me therfore.' 

This thyng was graunted, and oure othes swore 
With ful glad herte, and preyden hym also 
That he would vouche-sauf for to do so, 
And that he wolde been oure governour, 675 

And of our tales juge and reportour, 
And sette a soper at a certeyn pris, 
And we wol reuled been at his devys 
In heigh and lough; and thus, by oon assent, 
We been acorded to his juggement. (S18) 680 



THE MERRY WORDS OF THE HOST TO CHAUCER 

After the Prioress had told the sad tale of Hugh of Lincoln's 
martyrdom, the host turned to Chaucer. 

Whan seyd was al this miracle, every man 

As sobre was that wonder was to se, 

Til that oure Hooste japen tho bigan [jest] 



212 FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 

And thanne at erst he looked upon me, 

And seyde thus: 'What man artow?' quod he; 5 

'Thou lookest as thou woldest fynde an hare; 

For ever upon the ground I se thee stare. 

Approche neer, and looke up murily.' 

'Now war vow, sires, and lat this man have place; 

He in the waast is shape as wel as I; 10 

This were a popet in an arm tenbrace [doll!] 

For any womman, smal and fair of face. 

He semeth elvyssh by his contenaunce, [elvish, i.e., abstracted] 

For unto no wight dooth he daliaunce.' 

'Sey now somwhat, syn oother folk han sayd; 15 

Telle us a tale of myrthe, and that anon.' 

'Hooste,' quod I, 'ne beth nat yvele apayd, [disappointed] 

For oother tale certes kan I noon, 

But of a rym I lerned longe agoon.' 

'Ye, that is good,' quod he, 'now shul we heere 20 

Som deyntee thyng, me thynketh by his cheere!' [looks] 

THE PARDONERS TALE 

. . . Thise riotoures thre, of whiche I telle, (661) 
Longe erst er prime rong of any belle, 
Were set hem in a taverne for to drynke; 
And as they sat they herde a belle clynke 
Biforn a cors, was carried to his grave. 5 

That oon of hem gan callen to his knave: [°oy] 

'Go bet,' quod he, 'and axe redily [quickly] 

What cors is this that passeth heer forby, 
And looke that thou reporte his name week' 

' Sire,' quod this boy, ' it nedeth never a deel, 10 

It was me toold er ye cam heere two houres; 
He was, pardee, an old felawe of youres, 
And sodeynly he was y-slayn to-nyght, 
For-dronke, as he sat on his bench upright; 



PARDONERS TALE 



213 



Ther cam a privee theef, men clepeth Deeth, 15 

That in this contree al the peple sleeth, 

And with his spere he smoot his herte atwo, 

And wente his wey withouten wordes mo. 

He hath a thousand slayn this pestilence, 

And maister, er ye come in his presence, 20 

Me thynketh that it were necessarie 

For to be war of swich an adversarie; 

Beth redy for to meete hym evermoore; 

Thus taughte me my dame; I sey na-moore.' 

'By Seinte Marie!' seyde this taverner, 25 

'The child seith sooth, for he hath slayn this yeer 
Henne over a mile, withinne a greet village, [hence] 
Bothe man and womman, child, and hyne, and page; [hind] 
I trowe his habitac'ioun be there; 

To been avysed greet wysdom it were, [jorwarned] 30 

Er that he dide a man a dishonour.' 

'Ye, Goddes armes!" quod this riotour, 
'Is it swich peril with hym for to meete? 
I shal hym seke by weye and eek by strete; 
I make avow to Goddes digne bones! 35 

Herkneth, felawes, we thre been al ones, 
Lat ech of us holde up his hand til oother, 
And ech of us bicomen otheres brother, 
And we wol sleen this false traytour, Deeth; 
He shal be slayn, he that so manye sleeth, 40 

By Goddes dignitee, er it be nyght!' 

Togidres han thise thre hir trouthes plight 
To lyve and dyen ech of hem for oother, 
As though he were his owene y-bore brother; 
And up they stirte, al dronken, in this rage; [started] 
And forth they goon towardes that village 
Of which the taverner hadde spoke biforn; 
And many a grisly ooth thanne han they sworn; 
And Cristes blessed body they to-rente, [tear in pieces] 
Deeth shal be deed, if that they may hym hente. [seize] 50 



214 FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 

Whan they han goon nat fully half a mile, 
Right as they wolde han troden over a stile, 
An oold man and a poure with hem mette; 
This olde man ful mekely hem grette 
And seyed thus: 'Now, lordes, God yow see!' 55 

The proudeste of thise riotoures three 
Answerde agayn, 'What, carl with sory grace, 
Why artow al for-wrapped, save thy face? [art thou] 

Why lyvestow so longe in so greet age?' 

This olde man gan looke in his visage, 60 

And seyde thus: 'For I ne kan nat fynde 
A man, though that I walked into Ynde, 
Neither in citee, ne in no village, 
That wolde chaunge his youth e for myn age; 
And therfore moot I han myn age stille, 65 

As longe tyme as it is Goddes wille. 
Ne Deeth, alias! ne wol nat han my lyf; 
Thus walke I, lyk a resteless kaityf, 
And on the ground, which is my moodres gate, 
I knokke with my staf, erly and late, 80 

And seye, "Leeve mooder, leet me in! 
Lo, how I vanysshe, flessh and blood and skyn; 
Alias! whan shul my bones been at reste? 
Mooder, with yow wolde I chaunge my cheste 
That in my chambre longe tyme hath be, 85 

Ye, for an heyre-clowt to wrappe me!" [hair shirt] 

But yet to me she wol nat do that grace, 
For which ful pale and welked is my face. [withered] 

'But, sires, to yow it is no curteisye 
To speken to an old man vileynye, 90 

But he trespasse in word, or elles in dede. 
In Hooly Writ ye may your self wel rede, 
Agayns an oold man, hoor upon his heed, 
Ye sholde arise; wherfore I yeve yow reed, 
Ne dooth unto an oold man noon harm now, 95 

Namoore than ye wolde men did to yow 



PARDONERS TALE 215 

In age, if that ye so longe abyde. 

And God be with v ow, where ye go or ryde; 

I moote go thider a» I have to go.' 

'Nay, olde cherl, by God, thou shalt nat so!' 100 

Seyde this oother hasardour anon; [gamester] 

'Thou partest nat so lightly, by Seint John! 
Thou spak right now of thilke traytour, Deeth, 
That in this contree alle oure freendes sleeth; 
Have heer my trouthe, as thou art his espye, 105 

Telle where he is, or thou shalt it abye, [pay for] 

By God and by the hooly sacrement! 
For soothly, thou art oon of his assent 
To sleen us yonge folk, thou false theef!' 

'Now, sires,' quod he, 'if that ye so be leef no 

To fynde Deeth, turne up this croked wey , 
For in that grove I lafte hym, by my fey, 
Under a tree, and there he wole abyde; 
Noght for youre boost he wole him no thyng hyde. 
Se ye that 00k? Right there ye shal hym fynde. 115 

God save yow that boghte agayn mankynde, [redeemed] 
And yow amende!' thus seyde this olde man; 
And everich of thise riotoures ran 
Til he cam to that tree, and ther they founde, 
Of floryns fyne, of gold y-coyned rounde, 120 

Wei ny a seven busshels, as hem thoughte. 
No lenger thanne after Deeth they sough te, 
But ech of hem so glad was of that sighte, 
For that the floryns been so faire and brighte, 
That doun they set hem by this precious hoord. 125 

The worste of hem he spak the firste word. 

'Bretheren,' quod he, 'taak kepe what I seye; 
My wit is greet, though that I bourde and pleye [jest] 
This tresor hath Fortune unto us yeven 
In myrthe and jolitee oure lyf to lyven, 130 

And lightly as it comth so wol we spende. 
Ey, Goddes precious dignitee! who wende [weened] 



2l6 FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 

To-day, that we sholde hav so faire a grace? 

But myghte this gold be caried fro this place 

Hoom to myn hous, or elles unto youres, 135 

(For wel ye woot that al this gold is oures,) 

Thanne were we in heigh felicitee. 

But trewely, by day it may nat bee; 

Men wolde seyn that we were theves stronge, 

And for oure owene tresor doon us honge. 140 

This tresor moste y-caried be by nyghte 

As wisely and as slyly as it myghte. 

Wherfore, I rede that cut among us all [lot] 

Be drawe, and let se wher the cut wol falle; 

And he that hath the cut with herte blithe 145 

Shal renne to the towne, and that ful swithe, 

And brynge us breed and wyn ful prively, 

And two of us shul kepen subtilly 

This tresor wel; and if he wol nat tarie, 

Whan it is nyght we wol this tresor carie, 150 

By oon assent, where as us thynketh best.' 

That oon of hem the cut broghte in his fest [fist] 

And bad hem drawe and looke where it wol falle; 

And it fil on the yongeste of hem alle, 

And forth toward the toun he wente anon; 155 

And al so soone as that he was gon, 

That oon of hem spak thus unto that oother: 

'Thow knowest wel thou art my sworne brother; 

Thy profit wol I telle thee anon; 

Thou woost wel that oure felawe is agon, 160 

And heere is gold, and that ful greet plentee, 

That shal departed been among us thre; 

But natheless, if I kan shape it so 

That it departed were among us two, 

Hadde I nat doon a freendes torn to thee?' 165 

That oother answerde, 'I noot how that may be; 
He woot how that the gold is with us tweye; 
What shal we doon, what shal we to hym seye?' 



PARDONERS TALE 21 7 

'Shal it be conseil?' seyde the firtse shrewe, [rascal] 
'And I shal tellen thee in wordes fewe 170 

What we shal doon, and bryngen it wel aboute.' 

'I graunte,' quod that oother, 'out of doute, 
That by my trouthe I shal thee nat biwreye.' 

'Now,' quod the firste, 'thou woost wel we be tweye, 
And two of us shul strenger be than oon. 175 

Looke whan that he is set, and right anoon 
Arys, as though thou woldest with hym pleye, 
And I shal ryve hym thurgh the sydes tweye, 
Whil that thou strogelst with hym as in game, 
And with thy daggere looke thou do the same; 180 

And thanne shal al this gold departed be, 
My deere freend, bitwixen me and thee. 
Thanne may we bothe oure lustes all fulfille, 
And pleye at dees right at oure owene wille.' [dice] 

And thus acorded been thise shrewes tweye, 185 

To sleen the thridde, as ye han herd me seye. 

This yongeste, which that wente unto the toun 
Ful oft in herte he rolleth up and doun 
The beautee of thise floryns newe and brighte; 
'O Lord,' quod he, 'if so were that I myghte 190 

Have al this tresor to myself allone, 
Ther is no man that lyveth under the trone [throne] 
Of God, that sholde lyve so murye as I!' 
And atte laste the feend, oure enemy, 

Putte in his thought that he sholde poyson beye, [buy] 195 
With which he myghte sleen his felawes tweye; 
For-why the feend foond hym in swich lyvynge, 
That he hadde leve hym to sorwe brynge, 
For this was outrely his fulle entente [utterly] 

To sleen hem bothe and never to repente. 200 

And forth he gooth, no lenger wolde he tarie, 
Into the toun, unto a pothecarie, 
And preyde hym that he hym wolde selle 
Som poysoun, that he myghte his rattes quelle; [kill] 



2l8 FROM CHAUCER TO WYATT AND SURREY 

And eek ther was a polcat in his hawe, [hedge] 205 

That, as he seyde, his capouns hadde y-slawe, 
And fayn he wolde wreke hym, if he myghte [avenge himself] 
On vermyn, that destroyed hym by nyghte. [harmed] 

The pothecarie answerde, 'And thou shalt have 
A thyng that, al so God my soule save, 210 

In al this world ther nis no creature, 
That eten or dronken hath of this confiture, 
Noght but the montance of a corn of whete, [amount] 
That he ne shal his lif anon forlete; [give up] 

Ye, sterve he shal, and that in lasse while [die] 215 

Than thou wolt goon a-paas nat but a mile; 
This poysoun is so strong and violent.' 

This cursed man hath in his hond y-hent 
This poysoun in a box, and sith he ran 
Into the nexte strete unto a man, 220 

And borwed hym large botelles thre, 
And in the two his poyson poured he; 
The thridde he kepte clene for his owene drynke; 
For al the nyght he shoope hym for to swynke [planned] 
In cariynge of the gold out of that place. 225 

And whan this riotour with sory grace 
Hadde filled with wyn his grete hotels thre, 
To his felawes agayn repaireth he. 

What nedeth it to sermone of it moore? 
For right as they hadde cast his deeth bifoore, 230 

Right so they han hym slayn, and that anon, 
And whan that this was doon thus spak that oon: 
'Now lat us sitte and drynke, and make us merie, 
And afterward we wol his body berie;' 
And with that word it happed hym, par cas, 235 

To take the botel ther the poysoun was, 
And drank and yaf his felawe drynke also, 
For which anon they storven bothe two. 

But certes, I suppose that Avycen 
Wroot never in no Canon, ne in no fen, [chapter] 240 



PARDONERS TAI.E 210. 

Mo wonder signes of empoisonyng 
Than hadde thise wrecches two, er hir endyng. 
Thus ended been thise homycides two, 
And eek the false empoysonere also. 

O cursed synne of alle cursednesse! 245 

O traytorous homycide! O wikkednesse! 
O glotonye, luxurie, and hasardrye! [lechery and gaming] 
Thou blasphemour of Crist with vileynye, 
And othes grete, of usage and of pride! 
Alias! mankynde, how may it bitide 250 

That to thy Creatour which that thee wroghte, 
And with his precious herte-blood thee boghte, 
Thou art so fals and so unkynde, alias! 

Now, goode men, God foryeve yow youre trespas, 
And ware yow fro the synne of avarice. 255 

Myn hooly pardoun may you alle warice. [heal] . (906) 



THE COMPLEYNT OF CHAUCER TO HIS PURSE 

(About 1399) 

To you, my purse, and to noon other wyght 
Compleyne I, for ye be my lady dere! 

I am so sory now that ye been light; 
For, certes, but ye make me hevy chere, 
Me were as leef be leyd upon my bere, 5 

Forwhiche unto your mercy thus I crye, — 

Beth hevy ageyn, or elles mot I dye! 

Now voucheth sauf this day, or hit be nyght, 
That I of you the blisful soun may here, 

Or see your colour lyk the sonne bright 10 

That of yelownesse hadde never pere. 



220 FROM CHAl/CER TO WYATT AND SURREY 

Ye be my lyf! ye be myn hertes stere! [rudder] 
Quene of comfort and of good companye! 
Beth hevy ageyn, or elles mot I dye. 

Now, purse, that be to me my lyves light 15 

And Saveour, as doun in this worlde here, 

Out of this toun help me thorogh your myght, 
Syn that ye wole not been my tresorere; 
For I am shave as nye as is a frere. [close] 

But yet I pray unto your curtesye, 20 

Beth hevy ageyn, or elles mot I dye. 



THE BALLAD OF GOOD COUNSEL 

OR 

TRUTH 

(After 1386) 

Flee fro the press, and dwelle with sothefastnesse 

Suffice unto thy thyng though hit be smal; 

For hord hath hate and clymbyng tikelnesse, 

Prees hath envye, and wele blent overal; [makes blind] 

Savour no more than thee bihove shal; [taste] 5 

Werk wel thy-self, that other folk canst rede, [adiise] 

And trouthe shal delivere, it is no drede. 

Tempest thee noght al croked to redresse [distress thyself] 
In trust of hir that turneth as a bal: 

Greet reste stant in litel besynesse; 10 

An eek be war to sporne ageyn an al; ]awl] 

Stryve noght, as doth the crokke with the wal. [hook] 
Daunte thy-self, that dauntest otheres dede. [subdue] 

And trouthe shal delivere, it is no drede. 



GOOD COUNSEL 221 

That thee is sent, receyve in buxumnese. [submission] 15 

The wrastling for this worlde axeth a fal. 

Her nis non hoom, her nis but wildernesse 

Forth, pilgrim, forth! Forth, beste, out of thy stal, [beast] 

Know thy contree, look up, thank God of al; 

Hold the hye wey, and let thy gost thee lede, 20 

And trouthe shal delivere, it is no drede. 

Envoy 

Therfore, thou vache, leve thyn old wrecchednesse [cow] 

Unto the world; leve now to be thral; 

Crye him mercy, that of his hy goodnesse 

Made thee of noght, and in especial 25 

Draw unto him and pray in general 

For thee, and eek for other, hevenlich mede; [reward] 

And trouthe shall delivere, it is no drede. 

Explicit le bon conseil de G. Chaucer. 



LEJa' 



EARLY 

ENGLISH POEMS 



SELECTED AND IN PART TRANSLATED 

BY 

HENRY S. PANCOAST 

AUTHOR OF "AN INTRODUCTION TO ENGLBH LITERATURE," "AN INTRODUCTION 
TO AMERICAN LITERATURE," ETC 

AND 

JOHN DUNCAN SPAETH 

PRECEPTOR IN PRINCETON UNIVERSITY 




NEW YORK 

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 
1910 



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